Exeter academic hails damage from ‘worst storm in 20 years’ as irreversible

Exeter academic hails damage from ‘worst storm in 20 years’ as irreversible

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Dr Shail is part of the Geology department at Cornwall campus. Image Credit: University of Exeter
Dr Shail is part of the Geology department at Cornwall campus. Image Credit: University of Exeter

A University professor has claimed that an unusually powerful storm which hit Devon during bad weather in early January has caused irreversible changes to the county’s coastline.

Dr Robin Shail, a geologist and senior lecturer at Exeter, suggested that ‘Hercules’ was the worst weather to hit the region in 20 years. He described the storm, which damaged both natural and manmade structures and took the lives of two people out at sea, as having the biggest impact on the county since the winter storms of 1991.

The impact is most likely to manifest itself in the form of geological erosion of the coastline, something that Dr Shail attributes to the relentless pounding it received from waves during the storm.

This would increase the risk of landslides, as the weather gets drier.

Dr Shail added that epic storms such as Hercules will only become more common, thanks to climate change.

Speaking to the Exeter Express And Echo, he said: “What we are seeing within the debate about climate change is that one-in-50-year events are becoming one-in-20 year ones – we are moving to a situation where change is occurring more rapidly – it is like pressing the fast forward button”.

Already, Dr Shail’s widely published predictions appear to be coming true, as geological structures along the East Devon coast have eroded, unveiling rare dinosaur fossils in the process.

Dr Shail reflected: “The landscape which we see and love and cherish is forever changing – people assume it is fixed but it is an ever-moving canvas”.

Bryan Toh, News Team

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