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Modelling sea level surges in the Firth of Clyde, a fjordic embayment in south-west Scotland

Sabatino, Alessandro and O'Hara Murray, Rory B. and Hills, Alan and Speirs, Douglas C. and Heath, Michael R. (2016) Modelling sea level surges in the Firth of Clyde, a fjordic embayment in south-west Scotland. Natural Hazards. ISSN 1573-0840

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Storm surges are an abnormal enhancement of the water level in response to weather perturbations. They have the capacity to cause damaging flooding of coastal regions, expecially when they coincide with astronomical high spring tides. Some areas of the UK have suffered particularly damaging surge events, and the Firth of Clyde is a region with high risk due to its location and morphology. Here we use a three-dimensional high spatial resolution hydrodynamic model to simulate the local bathymetric and morphological enhancement of surge in the Clyde, and disaggregate the effects of far-field atmospheric pressure distribution and local scale wind forcing of surges. A climatological analysis, based on 30 years of data from Millport tide gauges is also discussed. The results suggest that floods are not only caused by extreme surge events, but also by the coupling of spring high tides with moderate surges. Water level is also enhanced by a funnelling effect due to the bathymetry and the morphology of fjordic sealochs and the River Clyde estuary. In a world of rising sea level, studying the propagation and the climatology of surges and high water events is fundamental. In addition, high-resolution hydrodynamic models are essential to forecast extreme events and prevents the loss of lives, or to plan coastal defences solutions.