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Research project

Assessing past and future closures of the storm surge barriers in the Netherlands

Project overview

Rising sea levels threaten many low-lying coastal areas in many ways, including raising extreme sea-level events. Extreme sea-level events can give rise to serious coastal flooding and erosion. The Netherlands is especially vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding and erosion. Today, almost half of the Netherlands’ 17 million inhabitants live along its 350 km coast or in regions which are near to or below sea level. Across the Netherlands six storm surge barriers form an important part of the Delta Works, which protects large areas of land from flooding. Storm surge barriers are moveable flood gates or barriers at estuaries, tidal inlets and river mouths which close, automatically or otherwise, when water levels are extremely high. With the rate of sea level rise projected to accelerate over the remainder of the 21st century and beyond, it is expected the storm surge barriers will need to close more and more regularly, with important implications for operation, management and maintenance.

Building on work we have recently done for the Thames Barrier in the UK; the overall aim of this one-year project well be to assess past and future closures of storm surge barriers in the Netherlands. In the first stage of the work we will analyses the water level and meteorological conditions that have results in each past storm surge barrier closures in the Netherlands. This will involve analysing tide gauge sea level records around the North Sea coast, and other relevant parameters (e.g., river discharge), to determine the conditions that lead to each closure, or near closure. The tracks and characteristics of the storms that generated the elevated sea levels will also be assessed in detail. Monthly, year to year and decadal variable variability will also be assessed to improve understanding of why some closures occurred more often during some years compared to others. In the second stage, we will estimate the number of barrier closures that is likely to be expected between in the future under different climate change scenarios. This will involve creating a flexible statistical tool, that can estimate future closure numbers for the barriers in the Netherlands.


Lead researcher

Professor Ivan Haigh


Research interests

  • I have four main areas of research, as follows:
  • Mean Sea level: local, regional and global trends, detection of accelerations, understanding of inter-annual variability
  • Extreme sea levels and coastal Flooding: Changes in storm surges, extreme value analysis, compound events,

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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