Thursday 19. December 2013

Discussions on Coastal Flood-risk Research

Professor Mike Phillips, visiting faculty at UW's Coastal and Marine Management-programme and Ísafjörður-based researcher Björn Erlingsson from Iceland's Meteorological Office discussed common research interests on coastal flood-risk during Professor Phillips teaching module at the programme earlier this month.

Professor Phillips, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at University of Wales Trinity St. David and editor of a recent book on flood risk management in low lying tourist destinations in small island states has been involved with UWestfjords' Coastal Management Programme from the very beginning. Before taking up his post as Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Phillips was the head of the School for Built and Natural Environment at Swansea Metropolitan University, which recently merged with Trinity St. David. His research focus involves coastal management from both physical and human geography perspectives. Professor Phillips UWestfjords' course, Physical Processes of Coastal and Marine Environment, includes coastal processes and morphological responses to climate change and sea level rise, as well as problems of coastal protection, whether it is by hard constructions or by soft solutions. "It is always better to let the waves work for you instead of working against them" he explains his preference for the soft solutions, "at least as long as you have the space for it". In his course, to give an example, he discusses opportunities and limitations of man-made invisible underwater reefs for protection of the shore.

Björn Erlingsson is working on flood-risk assessment for Iceland's Meteorological office in Ísafjörður. In cooperation with Eik Planning Agency, his department started last spring developing a pilot project on relative risk assessment for low lying settlements in the Westfjords, comparable to what the Avalanche Research Institute in Ísafjörður is doing in connection with the risk assessment of avalanches. He points out that "small settlements face totally different challenges, although they face the same ocean as large settlements. There is normally more space, less money and less to defend. So a cost-benefit-analysis might lead them to totally different solutions than for big cities."

Björn Erlingsson's and Mike Phillips' projects are thus closely related and no wonder that they have started thinking of possible cooperation. Mike Phillips, with his Welsh intonation, unmistakably takes it the following way: "You come to the end of the world, teach bright students and run across researchers that turn out to have the same interest as you have, it is amazing, I like that here in Ísafjörður."


Björn Erlingsson (left) and Mike Phillips (right) discussed common research interests at UW recently.
Björn Erlingsson (left) and Mike Phillips (right) discussed common research interests at UW recently.