PLYMOUTH, England, March 15 (UPI) -- In 2013 and 2014, a series of winter storms slammed Europe's Atlantic coast. According to new analysis, the storms were the most powerful since 1948.
Researchers with the University of Plymouth in England measured erosion -- including changes in beach gradient, sandbar position and coastal realignment -- at sites along the coasts of Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
The results, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, suggest the 2013-2014 winter storm season was the most energetic in nearly 70 years.
"We have previously conducted research showing the devastating effects caused to the U.K. by the stormy winter of 2013-2014," lead study author Gerd Masselink, professor of coastal geomorphology at Plymouth, said in a news release.
"But the damage caused to coastal communities there was replicated -- and in some cases exceeded -- across western France," Masselink continued. "All but one of the sites assessed for this study reached their most depleted state at the end of the 2014 winter, and it will take many years for them to fully recover."
During the 2013-2014 winter, Europe's western coast experienced waves of extreme power five times more often the average. Wave heights were also 40 percent higher. The results are more severely eroded beaches, which can make coastlines more vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding.
Researchers say their findings point to a trend in increasingly powerful winter storms.
"The extreme winter of 2013-2014 is in line with historical trends in wave conditions and is also predicted to increasingly occur due to climate change according to some of the climate models, with the winter of 2015-2016 also set to be among the stormiest of the past 70 years," study co-author Tim Scott said. "Whether due to more intense and/or more frequent storms, it should undoubtedly be considered in future coastal and sea defence planning along the Atlantic coast of Europe."