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Role of waves in improved storm surge forecasting

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Bricheno
    Prof P Stansby
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is an extract of the research project. Simply click on “Apply on-line” above for an instant access to the complete version.

The coupled setup (Bricheno et al. 2013, Brown et al. 2013) will enable assessment of the temporally and spatially varying importance of wave-tide-surge-wind interaction under extreme conditions to improve the UK’s predictive capability. Having a fast communication between modelled atmosphere and ocean systems, will act to tighten the coupling and close the momentum budget. Introducing a feedback from the coastal ocean to the atmosphere will in turn lead to an improved prediction of the storm system evolution, and more accurate surface stresses to drive surface waves.

It is hypothesised that steep waves, typically found in fetch limited conditions and in young sea states will modulate water levels due to enhanced surface roughness (Brown and Wolf 2010), whereas swell dominant seas are relatively ‘smooth’. Near a coastline, enhanced transmission of momentum from the atmosphere to the ocean can modify the amount of water that ‘piles up’ against the coast (Stansby et al. 2013). The UK Environmental Prediction capability is ideally suited to investigate such regional sensitivities to the wave climate in a number of locations around the UK. This work will lead to improved understanding, recommendations and delivery of improvements for predicting these interactions. The results will be applied in operational systems such as the national NEMO-surge forecasting capability developed by NOC and the Met Office, and used to protect lives and property by bodies such as the Environment Agency and joint Flood Forecasting Centre.


This study will investigate 2 specific research questions, at a national level:

1. Where in the UK do conditions allow wave-surge-wind interaction to increase flood risk?

2. What are the important parameters and feedbacks to consider in operational forecasting at a national scale?

This PhD project will have a direct impact on the National Capability science being delivered through the Met Office and NOC. In turn, it will enhance the quality of the life-critical UK storm surge predictions and warnings, along with operational forecasts of the weather and coastal sea state.

The research sits at the cutting edge of our atmosphere and ocean science, and will contribute directly to an existing collaboration on UK Environmental Prediction between NOC, Met Office, CEH and PML. This is an ambitious multi-year research activity to better understand the role of feedbacks between the atmosphere, land and seas for improving UK environmental prediction.

The need for improved understanding of air-land-sea interactions was well demonstrated by the storms of winter 2013/14, when damage to coastal infrastructure and flooding resulted from combinations of strong winds, severe waves, persistent rainfall, saturated land, overfull rivers and tidal locking. Assessing these events in a coupled framework will provide a more complete understanding than currently possible through evaluation of any one component in isolation.

This work will focus on the UK, but the tools and understanding developed will maintain the potential to be re-locatable (e.g. for storm surge in S.E. Asia), and sufficiently flexible to meet a range of societal applications beyond operational forecasting and warnings (e.g. for new integrated climate impact scenarios or coastal environmental assessments).

Funding Notes

Competitive tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,056 tax free) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Understanding the Earth, Atmosphere and Ocean” (website: http://www.liv.ac.uk/studentships-earth-atmosphere-ocean/) led by the University of Liverpool, the National Oceanographic Centre and the University of Manchester. The studentship is granted for a period of 42 months. Further details on eligibility, how to apply, deadlines for applications and interview dates can be found on the website. EU students are eligible for a fee-only award. Note that this is a CASE project with strong interactions with industrial partner. The successful candidate will benefit from an extra £1,000.-/year (Tax free).


Bricheno, L., Soret, A., Wolf, J., Jorba, O., Baldasano, J. (2013) Effect of High-Resolution Meteorological Forcing on Nearshore Wave and Current Model Performance. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 30, 1021–1037.

Brown, J., and J. Wolf, (2009) Coupled wave and surge modelling for the eastern Irish Sea and implications for model windstress. Cont. Shelf Res., 29, 1329–1342.

Brown, J., Bolaños, R., Wolf, J. (2013) The depth-varying response of coastal circulation and water levels to 2D radiation stress when applied in a coupled wave–tide–surge modelling system during an extreme storm. Coast. Eng., 82, 102-113.

Lewis, H., Mittermaier, M., Ken Mylne, K., Norman, K., Scaife, A., Neal, R., Pierce, C.,Harrison, D., Jewell, S., Kendon, M., Saunders, R., Brunet, B., Golding, G., Kitchen, K., Davies P., Pilling C. (2015) From months to minutes – exploring the value of high-resolution rainfall observation and prediction during the UK winter storms of 2013/2014. Meteorological Applications, 22: 90-104.

Stansby, P., Chini, N., Apsley, D., Borthwick, A., Bricheno, L., Horrillo-Caraballo, J., McCabe, M., Reeve, D., Rogers, B., Saulter, A., Scott, A., Wilson, C., Wolf, J. & Yan, K. (2013) An integrated model system for coastal flood prediction with a case history for Walcott, UK, on 9 November 2007. J. of Flood Risk Management, 6: 229–252.

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