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Coastal risks in a changing climate

Keywords: Coastal flood, climate change, sustainable design, decision support system
Fig. 1 High sea water level overflowing Cesenatico canal harbour. (Author: Alberto Lamberti)
Fig. 2. Example of integrated risk map, scale from 1 to 4 (green to red), from low to very high impact. (Author: Barbara Zanuttigh)

Major threats for large stretches of European coasts are erosion and flooding. Climate change may cause very significant impacts on coastal zones, particularly because of the foreseen sealevel rise and increase of frequency and intensity of extreme events (Fig. 1). This research aims at risk assessment and mitigation in short, mid and long term scenarios due to storms and tsunamis.

Research performed within THESEUS Project has developed a holistic, participatory and interdisciplinary approach to addressing coastal risk based on the Source-Pathway-Receptor- Consequence model. One of the major outcome is the new Decision Support System, a GIS based tool to help decision makers in scoping optimal strategies to minimize coastal risks. The tool allows the users to perform an integrated coastal risk assessment (Fig. 2), to analyse the effects of combinations of engineering, social, economic and ecologically based mitigation options, to explore short, medium and long term scenarios taking into account physical and nonphysical drivers, such as climate change, subsidence, population and economic growth. The THESEUS DSS is intended as a vehicle for communication, training, forecasting and experimentation and is available at the project web page upon registration (

The ongoing effects of climate change pose also new challenges to the risk based design of coastal and harbour structures, which are constructed primarily to limit wave overtopping or prevent flooding. Therefore the accurate estimation of overtopping discharges and volumes are extremely important to assess and assure the safety – or at least limit the exposure – of people, activities and goods. For conceptual design purposes, a simple and rapid approach is to use an Artificial Neural Network (ANN), which is particularly recommended in case of complicated structure geometries and variable wave conditions A new ANN tool has been developed, capable to predict the main parameters representative of the wavestructure interaction processes, i.e. the mean wave overtopping discharge q, the wave transmission and the wave reflection coefficients Kt and Kr. The tool will be released through a GUI at the link The tool will be adopted as the new EurOtop ANN, in conjunction with the publication of the updated manual by 2016.

Main publications

EurOtop, (2016, in press). European Manual for the Assessment of Wave Overtopping. Second Edition. N.W.H. Allsop, T. Bruce, J. DeRouck, A. Kortenhaus, T. Pullen, H. Schüttrumpf, P. Troch, J.W. van der Meer & B. Zanuttigh.

Zanuttigh B., Nicholls R., Vanderlinden J. P., Burcharth H. F. & R. C. Thompson (2014). “Coastal risk management in a changing climate”, Elsevier.

Zanuttigh B., Simcic D., Bagli S., Bozzeda F., Pietrantoni L., Zagonari F., Hoggart S., Nicholls R. J. (2014). THESEUS decision support system for coastal risk management, Coastal Engineering, 87, 218-239, Elsevier.

Narayan S., Nicholls R. J., Clarke D., Hanson S., Reeve D., Horrillo-Caraballo J., Le Cozannet G., Hissel F., Kowalska B., Parda R., Willems P., Ohle N., Zanuttigh B., Losada I., Ge J., Trifonova E., Penning-Rowsell E., Vanderlinden J. P., 2014. Evaluating the 2D Source – Pathway - Receptor model for flood risk assessment. Coastal Engineering, 87, 15-31, Elsevier.

Penning-Rowsell E., Parker D. J., de Vries W. S., Zanuttigh B., Simmonds D., Trifonova E., Hissel F., Monbaliu J., Lendzion K., Ohle N., Diaz P. & T. Bouma, (2014). Innovation in coastal risk management: An exploratory analysis of risk governance issues at eight THESEUS study sites, Coastal Engineering, 87, 210-217, Elsevier.

Zanuttigh, B. (2014). Features Common to Different Hydrometeorological Events and Knowledge Integration, in “Hydrometeorological Hazards: Interfacing Science and Policy. Part one: Setting the scene”, 49-81, Quevauviller P. Editor, Wiley-Blackwell.

Masina M., Lamberti A., Archetti R. (2015). Coastal flooding: A copula based approach for estimating the joint probability of water levels and waves. Coastal Engineering, 97, 37-52.

Samaras, A. G., Karambas, Th. V., and Archetti, R. (2015): Simulation of tsunami generation, propagation and coastal inundation in the Eastern Mediterranean, Ocean Sci., 11, 643-655.

Masina M. and Lamberti A. (2013). A Nonstationary analysis for the Northern Adriatic extreme sea levels. Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans.

Zanuttigh, B. (2011). Coastal flood protection: what perspective in a changing climate? The THESEUS approach, Environmental Science and Policy, 14, 845 – 863.

Archetti R., Bolognesi, A. Casadio, A. and Maglionico M. (2011). Development of flood probability charts for urban drainage network in coastal areas through a simplified joint assessment approach. Hydrology and earth system sciences, 15, 3115 - 3122.

De Vries W. S., Zanuttigh B., Steendam G. J., Kloosterboer H., Van der Nat A. and Graaf, H. (2011). Integrating science and policy for creating tools for safer European coasts in a changing climate, Irrig. and Drain. 60 (Suppl. 1): 77–83.

Martinelli L., Zanuttigh B. and Corbau C. (2010). Assessment of coastal flooding risk along the Emilia Romagna littoral, Italy. Coastal Engineering, 57, No. 11-12, 1042-1058.

Corbau C., Simeoni U., Archetti R. Peretti A. and Farina M. (2009). Winter Sandy Protections of the Northern Adriatic Coast against flooding: Preliminary Results. J. of Coast. Res. SI 56. 1194 – 1198.

Research projects

H2020 DRS-09-2015 ID: 700699. Project: BRIGAID. Bridging the Gap for Innovations in Disaster Resilience.

EU-FP7-ENV2009-1 ID 244104 Project: THESEUS. Innovative technologies for safer European coasts in a changing climate.

PON01_02823/2 TESSA – Development of Technologies for the Situational Sea Awareness”.