Articles | Volume 12, issue 7
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2425–2437, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2425–2437, 2012

Research article 31 Jul 2012

Research article | 31 Jul 2012

A method to characterize the different extreme waves for islands exposed to various wave regimes: a case study devoted to Reunion Island

S. Lecacheux1, R. Pedreros1, G. Le Cozannet1, J. Thiébot2, Y. De La Torre1, and T. Bulteau1 S. Lecacheux et al.
  • 1BRGM, 3 Avenue Claude Guillemin Cedex 2, BP 6009, 45060 Orléans, France
  • 2LUSAC, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, site universitaire, 50130 Cherbourg, France

Abstract. This paper outlines a new approach devoted to the analysis of extreme waves in presence of several wave regimes. It entails discriminating the different wave regimes from offshore wave data using classification algorithms, before conducting the extreme wave analysis for each regime separately. The concept is applied to the pilot site of Reunion Island which is affected by three main wave regimes: southern waves, trade-wind waves and cyclonic waves. Several extreme wave scenarios are determined for each regime, based on real historical cases (for cyclonic waves) and extreme value analysis (for non-cyclonic waves). For each scenario, the nearshore wave characteristics are modelled all around Reunion Island and the linear theory equations are used to back calculate the equivalent deep-water wave characteristics for each portion of the coast. The relative exposure of the coastline to the extreme waves of each regime is determined by comparing the equivalent deep-water wave characteristics.

This method provides a practical framework to perform an analysis of extremes within a complex environment presenting several sources of extreme waves. First, at a particular coastal location, it allows for inter-comparison between various kinds of extreme waves that are generated by different processes and that may occur at different periods of the year. Then, it enables us to analyse the alongshore variability in wave exposition, which is a good indicator of potential runup extreme values. For the case of Reunion Island, cyclonic waves are dominant offshore around the island, with equivalent deep-water wave heights up to 18 m for the northern part. Nevertheless, due to nearshore wave refraction, southern waves may become as energetic as cyclonic waves on the western part of the island and induce similar impacts in terms of runup and submersion. This method can be easily transposed to other case studies and can be adapted, depending on the data availability.