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A wide shot of a storm surge barrier, with several wind turbines spinning in the background.

Protecting against rising sea levels

Published: 22 September 2022

Climate change and rising sea levels are putting the world’s storm surge barriers under increasing pressure. Research by oceanographers at Southampton aims to understand the impact this change in climate is having on these barriers that protect approximately 30 million people and trillions of pounds of property and infrastructure globally.

Professor Ivan Haigh, Associate Professor in Coastal Oceanography, PhD student Sunke Trace-Kleeberg and colleagues, in collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat – the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management – are looking at the Netherlands’ six storm surge barriers.

The goal is to understand the potential impact of climate change on these barriers and to plan a programme of maintenance to ensure they are fit for the future

"Accelerating rates of sea level rise and changes in the frequency and intensity of storms are starting to cause surge barriers to have to close more frequently. This has critical implications for barrier operation, integrity, reliability, maintenance, projected lifespan and future upgrade or replacement planning," says Ivan.

Our expertise on storm surges, sea level rise and climate change is crucial to understand what needs to be done to ensure that these protective barriers continue to operate in future years.