Scotland’s weather: Snow hits after Storm Gertrude

Stuart Allen, Rowan and Amy Bell, and Isla Morrison in Penicuik yesterday. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Stuart Allen, Rowan and Amy Bell, and Isla Morrison in Penicuik yesterday. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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AS SCOTS recover from yet another battering by gale-force winds, torrential rain and snow, scientists have revealed the force of a storm can inflict even more damage than previously thought.

On top of travel chaos, flooding and power cuts, severe weather can reshape even the most rugged coastlines in a matter of hours.

Newly published research has revealed for the first time how shorelines previously thought to be the most resilient to erosion can be broken up and swept away during tempestuous conditions.

Evidence shows a single storm can be powerful enough to overturn giant boulders weighing as almost a tonne and shift smaller chunks of rock over significant distances.

It suggests some of our most iconic and seemingly indestructible coastal geological features may be at risk.

The effects have been witnessed around Scotland, including towering cliffs in Shetland and on rocky beaches in East Lothian.

Dr Larissa Naylor, a lecturer in physical sciences at the University of Glasgow, carried out the study on a stretch of coast in Wales that was bombarded by gigantic waves during a cyclone.

Analysis of the beach before, during and after the storm showed extreme weather could cause significant shifting of remarkably large rocks.

She said: “Other studies have looked at small movements of rocks, and they haven’t been able to attribute them to an individual storm.

“The findings here show daily movements and illustrate the power of a storm to elicit change.

“Some of the boulders that had detached moved 200 metres in three months.

“Boulders as long as an adult and heavier than a washing machine were lifted and flipped over while shoebox-sized boulders moved up to 50 metres in 24 hours and over 90 metres in four days.

“These data show that we cannot assume that rock coasts change infrequently and are at low risk to storm damage.

“They show that rock coasts are dynamic and responsive to storms and that they generate and transport rock material along the coast towards beaches and barriers that often act as coastal defences.

“This means the potential for them to add to beaches elsewhere is large.”

Gertrude, the most recent storm to hit Scotland and whose 100mph winds left a trail of damage throughout Scotland last week, is the seventh one to hit the UK since the Met Office began the naming system last November.

Gith climate experts predicting wet and windy conditions will become more intense and more frequent, Dr Naylor warns that there is a growing need to plan to for such extreme weather conditions and adapt to living with a shifting coastline.

She added: “Rocky coasts do erode under storms and as such may be more vulnerable to the effects of increased storminess than is currently planned for.”

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