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Gary Galbraith

Gary GalbraithGary Galbraith




School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK


+44 (0)28 9097 3929

Current Research: Environmental Change

The role of storm surge in recent coastal dune evolution

Understanding how our coasts respond and adapt in the face of ongoing climate change and rising sea levels is of paramount importance. The predicted future increase in stormy conditions across North West Europe, allied with a steadily rising eustatic sea level means that there will likely be a marked increase in the number and intensity of ‘high water’ events in the future. These high water, or surge, events can initiate immense change to a range of coastal environments and cause considerable coastal flooding and damage to any settlements or infrastructure therein.

Using the Danish coastal area of Skallingen as a case study this project investigates the role that surge events play in the long-term development of coastal sand dunes. Incorporating historical maps, georectified aerial photographs, historical and modern-day GPS and LIDAR surveys into a GIS platform has enabled morphological and volumetric change to be calculated from the site. These findings have been tied in with local tidal and meteorological data and supplemented with Ground Penetrating Radar surveys and sediment cores taken from the site to quantify the impact that surge events and surge event sequences have had in shaping the modern day dunescape.

The role of surge-generated overwash processes is central to this project and their critical role in duneline realignment, sediment delivery and in the creation of accommodation spaces - in which new dunes may form - is also investigated. The seemingly contradictory role that storms play in eroding the existing duneline and concomitantly providing this eroded material for new dune construction in surge-created accommodation spaces – through overwash processes and foredune removal – illustrates that surge events play a critical role in the evolution and persistence of coastal sand dunes.

Understanding how coastal features have responded to surge events and surge event sequences in the past will help us forecast how they will adapt in the future when faced with even higher-magnitude and higher-frequency storm events.

Research Interests:

My research interests lie broadly across many of the fields that comprise coastal zone studies including coastal geomorphology, beach and dune processes, swash-zone morphodynamics, the impact of sea defence structures at the coast, sea level change and coastal zone management.