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Coastal Erosion

Erosion is a problem along much of Scotland’s coast. It is caused by the sea hitting the land, often during a storm. This can be made worse when the tide is high, especially during spring tides (when the moon is full). Recent climate change predictions suggest that Scotland may face an increasing number of more intense storms over the coming 50 years. There is also a fear that rising sea levels may make the problem worse. Although sea level rise is not a great problem around much of Scotland (the land was pushed down by the weight of the ice sheets covering much of the country during the Ice Ages, and is slowly bouncing back up again at a rate faster than present sea level) it is rising faster than the land in some areas, including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. Whether things deteriorate or not, there is no escaping the fact that coastal erosion is a real problem now.

The sea battering the Churchill Barriers, Orkney.

Shetland is battered by gales, often causing severe damage to the coast edge. Overnight, storms can reveal archaeological sites that have remained hidden for hundreds or thousands of years. Once a site is exposed it is very vulnerable to subsequent damage, or even total destruction. Historic Scotland has been working to record coastal erosion and the effects that it has on archaeological sites. They have commissioned a series of surveys around Scotland, and approximately 30% of the coast has now been examined, including much of the Shetland coast. The surveys have recorded all the archaeological sites within 50m of the coast edge, together with a brief assessment of their vulnerability to erosion. The reports can be viewed on the SCAPE website - click here

The burnt mound at Cruester, damaged by erosion

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