Using newly digitised sea-level data for the ports of Southampton (1935–2005) and Portsmouth (1961–2005) on the south coast of the UK, this study investigates the relationship between the 100 highest sea-level events recorded at the two cities and the incidence of coastal floods in the adjoining Solent region. The main sources of flood data are the daily newspapers The Southern Daily Echo, based in Southampton and The News, based in Portsmouth, supported by a range of local publications and records. The study indicates a strong relationship between the highest measured sea levels and the incidence of coastal floods and highlights the most vulnerable areas to coastal flooding which include parts of Portsmouth, Southampton, Hayling Island, Fareham and Cowes. The most severe flood in the dataset resulted from the storm surge events of 13–17 December 1989 when eight consecutive extreme high waters occurred. The data suggest that while extreme sea-level events are becoming more common, the occurrence of flood events is not increasing. This is attributed to improved flood remediation measures combined with a reduction of storm intensity since the 1980s. However, several recent events of significance were still recorded, particularly 3 November 2005 when Eaststoke on Hayling Island (near Portsmouth) was flooded due to high sea levels combined with energetic swell waves.
Amy C. Ruocco, Robert J. Nicholls, Ivan D. Haigh