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Building Coastal and Marine Resilience – Ireland’s Climate Action

Professor Alistair Borthwick awarded ICE Gold Medal

Professor Alistair Borthwick awarded ICE Gold Medal for lifetime contribution to civil engineering education

The School of Engineering’s Professor Alistair Borthwick FICE, FREng, FRSE has been presented with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Gold Medal for his lifetime contribution to civil engineering education, training and mentoring.

A Gold Medal is awarded annually by the ICE to recognise individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the civil engineering profession over many years. Professor Borthwick received the honour at the ICE Awards ceremony in London on Friday 4 October 2019.

Professor Borthwick’s career has spanned civil, coastal and offshore engineering across industry and academia. He is recognised as a world authority on environmental fluid mechanics and has particular expertise in river basin management, coastal and offshore processes, water and wastewater treatment, and marine renewable energy.

He joined the University of Edinburgh as Professor of Applied Hydrodynamics in 2013, is also Emeritus Fellow at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and holds honorary professorships at Peking University, NUI Galway, University College Cork, Wuhan University, China University of Geosciences, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. During his time at University College Cork, he helped establish the SFI Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) Centre.

Professor Borthwick’s nomination was supported by academics representing the University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford, University of Plymouth, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Peking University. Describing Professor Borthwick as “the leading educator in civil engineering hydraulics of his generation”, the nomination notes his excellence in research and innovation, coupled with a dedication to educating the next generation of civil engineers on an international scale.

Over the course of his career, Professor Borthwick has employed 22 research assistants, supervised 61 doctoral and 7 MSc students, several of whom have gone on to train future talent themselves including seven full Professors, one Reader, two Associate Professors, and five Lecturers. In addition, he has acted as an internal and external examiner to a further 67 PhD and 6 MSc students worldwide, and mentored countless junior colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Cork and Peking.

Professor Borthwick has also contributed his expertise to several bodies supporting young civil engineers, including the Steering Committee of the UK Young Coastal Sciences and the Engineers Conference, and to outreach committees in the Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society of Edinburgh and the ICE.

Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, noted Professor Borthwick’s multidimensional contribution to civil engineering, commenting that “he has excelled in education, mentoring and research whilst maintaining and developing deep relevance to industrial applications – a difficult challenge, consummately achieved.”

Supporting the nomination, the School’s Professor Jane Smallman described Professor Borthwick’s “ability to build communities and provide unconditional support to talented early-career researchers and educators, especially where talent that has not yet been recognised, is from a non-traditional background, or has faced setbacks.”

Professor Deborah Greaves OBE, Head of the University of Plymouth’s School of Engineering attested to Professor Borthwick’s “significant impact on many hundreds of students who have gone on to work as civil engineers and conduct civil engineering research that has had global impact.”

Professor Ton van den Bremer, who was mentored by Professor Borthwick at the University of Edinburgh and continues to be mentored by him as a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at the University of Oxford said: “Alistair’s steadfast commitment to advancing the careers of his students and junior colleagues make him an example to anyone supervising students or building a research team.”

Commenting on the ICE’s decision to present Professor Borthwick with the Gold Medal Award, ICE Vice President Rachel Skinner and Chair of the ICE Awards Committee said: “Professor Alistair Borthwick has had a sizeable impact on the profession through his research and his work as an educator. His role in the training of future generations in civil engineering is very impressive, with his alumni now forming a global community of researchers, academics and practitioners.

“We consider Alistair to be a very worthy recipient for the Gold Medal and are pleased to be able to recognise him for his outstanding, sustained contribution to the profession.”

Are our storms getting worse or is it that weather forecasters are better informed?

It’s the first severe weather alert of the autumn but it won’t be the last time the question is asked before the season ends – whether it’s just perception or if the weather really is getting worse?

And if it’s the latter, how much of the blame can climate change carry?

Perception does play a part – before Hurricane Charley in 1986, we weren’t given to giving storms human characteristics but now we’re on first-name terms with every blow-in.

Katia, Darwin, Eva, Ophelia, Emma, Ali and Bronagh, to name a few, have all stopped by in the last few years and their exotic cousin, Lorenzo, may be about to drop in too.

But is it their naming that makes them memorable or that they visited us at all?

In the last few years, Twitter and Facebook have hosted eruptions of outrage over pictures of feckless parents allowing children to walk promenades while mini- tsunamis crash to shore, and thrill-seeking watersports enthusiasts being forcibly rescued while trying to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime waves.

But is it really their apparent imminent peril or simply proliferation of social media that makes their situation appear so alarming?

We’ve seen trampolines taking off, bouncy castles in the air and sports hall roofs ripped open like sardine cans.

But is it possible we just didn’t have such elaborate back garden paraphernalia in the past and built public facilities in a less slapdash fashion?

In other words, have we always weathered such storms but we didn’t notice, were more stoic or had less to lose?

Every county in the country is in the process of publishing a climate adaptation plan.

They are all drawn from a common template that explains the reason for their necessity and provides some fascinating weather history.

In Dublin, between Charley in 1986 and Bronagh in September 2018, there were 17 other “major climatic events” that caused various degrees of mayhem – freakishly heavy rainfall, unprecedented heat, the highest tide ever recorded, the strongest gust ever measured, the worst cold ever experienced, the most extensive flooding ever endured, the longest drought in memory.

The Cork plan records 22 such incidents that caused serious problems in the county over the same period, while in Galway there were 25.

Storm Darwin in February 2014 was ranked a one-in-20-year event with gusts of up to 110kmh and 8,000 hectares of forest felled. But then Storm Ophelia hit in October 2017 with gusts of 150kmh.

She also made the record books by being the first of her kind to come from the south.

Only two months later Storm Dylan followed, bringing gusts of 120kmh and whipping up already high seas to cause substantial coastal flooding along the west and north west coasts.

Suddenly ‘one-in-20-year events’ don’t sound so rare.

By serious problems, we’re talking millions of euro in damage to homes, businesses, public buildings, roads, sea walls, trees, telecommunications and recreation facilities, as well as loss of life.

Hurricane Lorenzo, if he hits Ireland, could bring all of the above. According to Met Éireann, he is “the eastern-most and northern-most category 5 hurricane ever recorded in Atlantic Ocean”.

He is expected to lose strength and be reclassified as an “extra-tropical” storm when he reaches a latitude of 49 degrees North, which would be about 1,000km off the southwest of Ireland.

By comparison, Met Éireann said Storm Ophelia in October 2017 retained its hurricane status until it was within 500km of Ireland.

So on the latest evaluation, bearing in mind assessments can change, he’s not as fierce as Ophelia but still formidable.

And while he might swing away from Ireland, he could just charge straight through.

Even if he doesn’t, it’s only early October, the very beginning of the dark months, and the experience of recent years suggests it’s highly likely another of his kin will come knocking before the brighter mornings return.

Dr Barry O’Dwyer of University College Cork is principal researcher on the ClimateIreland.ie project, an information platform for local authorities and the public.

He stressed he’s not a weather forecaster but said that the incidents of extreme weather in recent years have lived up to the warnings of climate forecasters.

“It is difficult to attribute individual events, as they happen, to climate change but the projections all indicate that we are expecting to see more extreme weather events of higher intensity and that does seem to be played out in recent times,” he said. “Ireland’s climate has changed.

“We’ve seen increased temperatures here that are directly comparable to what we’ve seen on a global basis.

“We’re seeing changes in patterns of precipitation, we’re seeing sea levels rise. And if we start to think about these extreme storms in that context then we’re really vulnerable.”

 

Article via The Irish Independent

Selkie

A new €4.2m cross-border project aiming to boost the marine energy industry in Wales and Ireland has been launched by Lesley Griffiths AM, the Welsh Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs.

Selkie is funded by the EU’s Ireland-Wales co-operation programme and is led by MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine hosted by University College Cork in partnership with Swansea University, Marine Energy Wales, Menter Môn, DP Energy Ireland and Dublin-based Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions.

The project will see the development of a streamlined commercialisation pathway for the marine energy industry by establishing a cross-border network of developers and supply chain companies in Ireland and Wales. Multi-use technology tools and models will be created and trialled on pilot projects before being shared across the sector.

The aim is to utilise the expertise from academics and industry across both nations to address the challenges facing the industry.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment in Ireland, Richard Bruton TD, said: “Ireland’s Climate Action Plan published earlier this year sets out the necessary policy measures to ensure Ireland meets it’s 2030 targets, putting us on a clear pathway to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Cutting our reliance on fossil fuel and transitioning to renewable energy is a key part of the Plan. By 2030, 70% of Ireland’s electricity will be generated from renewable sources. 

Both Ireland and Wales have large wave and tidal resources, which have the potential to contribute significantly to this transition. I am pleased to support the Selkie Project under the Ireland-Wales cross-border programme with the ultimate aim of facilitating Irish and Welsh SMEs within the sector to progress along the pathway to commercialisation.”

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs in Wales, Lesley Griffiths AM said: “Wales has enormous potential to deliver sustainable marine energy thanks to the natural resources we are blessed with. Establishing a cross-border network of developers and supply chain companies in Ireland will further strengthen this industry and allow us to be at the forefront of utilising green energy.

“This project will only strengthen the industry’s ability to push down costs and make it competitive, as well as providing the evidence required by UK Government that the industry is ready for full commercialisation.”

Counsel General and Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles AM, who is responsible for the delivery of EU funding within Wales, said; “Bringing together expertise from Wales and Ireland is vital if we’re going to meet the shared challenges and opportunities from our Irish Sea border including the potential to generate clean energy.

“Our relationship with Ireland is very important, so I’m delighted to see our two nations working together on such an important global priority.”

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D., who has overall policy responsibility for EU Structural Funds in Ireland said: “I am very pleased to welcome a further project under the Ireland-Wales cross-border programme.

It is a perfect example of the type of synergies that can be leveraged by third level institutions and businesses working in close co-operation and developing innovative and sustainable solutions to meet the energy challenges of the future. I would like to acknowledge and commend the efforts of all involved from University College Cork, Swansea University, and a consortium of businesses and leaders in the renewable energy sector.”

 

If you would like to find out more about Selkie or would like to register your interest to be involved in one of the pilot projects, please contact TJ Horgan, University College Cork: tj.horgan@ucc.ie