Large populations worldwide are at high risk from coastal flooding either from storm surge events, associated with major weather systems such as hurricanes, and from the pervasive long-term rise in sea level associated with global warming. Flood-prone nations such as the Netherlands have well-developed comprehensive coastal defence systems. Others such as Japan deal with catastrophic events such as tsunamis. In many more locations, rampant coastal development and erosion have exacerbated flood risk; while recent storm events, such as hurricane Irene (2011) highlighted the vulnerability of New York City to storm surge.
Andrew J. Whittle described the challenges of coastal flood protection using examples from New Orleans and Venice. In Venice, the challenge is to design flood protection to prevent damage from the high tides, while ensuring the environmental health of the Venice Lagoon on which the city depends. The novel MOSE mobile barrier system is intended to protect the three inlets to the lagoon against flood levels. This system is expected to be fully operational in 2014.
Andrew J. Whittle
Andrew Whittle is the Edmund K. Turner Professor and Head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at MIT. His research deals principally with the formulation of models for representing the complex mechanical properties of soils and their application in predicting the performance foundations and underground construction projects. Most recently he has led research efforts in the application of wireless sensor networks for monitoring underground water distribution systems and construction projects.