A cyclone known as Gudrun in the Nordic countries developed above the North Atlantic and traveled over the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Finland on January 7–9, 2005. As a result of high initial levels of the Baltic Sea, the fast-traveling cyclone with a favorable trajectory and strong SW–W winds created a record high storm surge (275 cm) in Pärnu, as well as in many other locations along the west Estonian coast. The January storm induced clearly visible changes in the development of shores and the dynamics of beach sediments over almost all of Estonia. The precondition for the profound changes observed from this storm—which has been observed in connection with some previous major storms—was a combination of the absence of protecting ice cover in the sea, relatively high sea level for a long period before the storm, and a very intensive storm surge taking place over the background of the already elevated sea level. Strong storm waves combined with the high sea level caused substantial changes in the coastal geomorphology of depositional shores on Saaremaa Island, Estonia. The most exceptional changes occurred in the areas that were well exposed to the storm winds and wave activity—for instance, in Kelba, where the high rate of erosion (<3000 m3) resulted in the elongation of a spit by 75 m. Our conclusion is that the January 2005 storm caused significantly larger changes to the depositional shores in west Estonia than the cumulative effects of ordinary storms over the preceding 10–15-year period.
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Vol. 2008 • No. 243