Dr Harshinie Karunarathna

About Me

Dr Harshinie Karunarathna is a very active researcher in the field of coastal and estuary hydrodynamics, coastal flooding, climate change impacts on the coastal zone, sediment transport and coastal morphodynamics and environmental impacts of marine renewables. Her research is mainly funded by RUCK and she has led numerous research projects on coastal and estuary engineering. Dr Karunarathna is member of the EPSRC funded Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network and an honorary member of the Japanese Government-Kyoto University funded Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience. She has authored more than 100 articles in high impact international journals and peer reviewed conference proceedings.

Main research interests:

Impacts of global climate change on the coastal environment
Impacts of extreme weathers on coastal areas
Coastal flood risk
Environmental impacts of marine renewables
Computational modelling of coastal and estuarine dynamics
Ecological influence on coastal morphology


  1. & Linkages between sediment composition, wave climate and beach profile variability at multiple timescales. Marine Geology 381, 194-208.
  2. Investigation of deep sea shelf sandbank dynamics driven by highly energetic tidal flows. Marine Geology 380, 245-263.
  3. & Performance of a data-driven technique applied to changes in wave height and its effect on beach response. Water Science and Engineering
  4. & Comparison between wave generation methods for numerical simulation of bimodal seas. Water Science and Engineering
  5. & Numerical modelling of storm and surge events on offshore sandbanks. Marine Geology 371, 106-119.

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  • EG-M107 Coastal Processes and Engineering

    This module provides an introduction to the subject of coastal engineering. It provides an overview of the main physical processes that shape the coastal environment and the wider context of coastal engineering, together with the underlying tidal theory, wave transformation methods and sediment transport concepts. The programme will consist of a series of lectures and examples classes.

  • EG-M35 Flood Risk Management

    Recent years have seen an increasingly volatile climate and hence severe floods across the UK and worldwide, which also accompanies with a constant demand for expertise and know-hows for flood risk management. We intend to use this module to facilitate civil and environmental engineering students with necessary engineering skills and techniques for flood risk management with special focuses on current practice and national polices related and climate change impact and sustainability issues. Any student wanting to pursue or develop in a related career, e.g., water managers, consultancy in flood risk management is encouraged to take the module.

  • EGA117 Fluid Mechanics I

    The module provides an introduction to the methods that can be employed by engineers for the analysis of basic problems involving stationary and flowing fluids. The module contains a theoretical part (delivered in lectures) and a practical component (comprising a set of laboratory experiments). The practical part aims to consolidate the understanding of fluid mechanics in civil engineering. This module is assessed by a combination of examination and laboratory report. In order for the laboratory report marks to count, you have to pass the exam component (with at least 40%). If you have less than 40% in the exam, then the module mark will be just the exam mark. Any resits are done by a supplementary exam. If you pass the exam but have failed the coursework, you may still fail the module, depending on the marks achieved, so it is important to do the coursework

  • EGA331 Coastal processes and engineering

    This module introduces the fundamentals of wave and tidal mechanics including linear wave theory, wave transformation, nearshore processes, theory of tides and coastal water level variations which are essential to coastal engineering. The concepts introduced here provides an overview of the main physical processes that shape the coastal environment and forms the basis of learning more complex coastal zone management, coastal zone processes modelling and coastal designs in Level M.


  • Untitled (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • Untitled (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • Computational modelling of wave overtopping as a result of climate change (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • Morphodynamic response of estuaries to climate change (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • Computational investigation of gabion spillway flows (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • Climate change impacts on beaches (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • 'Impacts of tidal energy extraction on sea bed morphology' (awarded 2016)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • 'Modelling of the stratified flow circulation in greenland Fjords' (awarded 2016)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve
  • 'Computational investigation of skimming flow on stepped spillways using the smoothed particle hydrodynamics Method' (awarded 2013)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Dominic Reeve

Key Grants and Projects

  • EcoWatt2050 (EPSRC) 2013 - 2016

  • FloodMEMORY –Multi-Event Modelling of Risk and recovery (EPSRC) 2012 - 2016

  • iCOASST - Integrated coastal sediment systems (NERC) 2012 - 2016

  • TeraWatt: Large scale Interactive coupled 3D modelling for wave and tidal energy resource and environmental impact (EPSRC) 2012 - 2015

  • Cellular Automata approach for estuary morphodynamic modelling (GRPE) 2008 - 2012

External Responsibilities

  • Associate Editor, Frontiers in Marine Science

    2014 - Present

  • Deputy Chair, Scientific & Organising Committee, 3rd IMA International Conference on Flood Risk, Plymouth

    2014 - 2014

  • Session ChairICOASST Conference, Southampton

    2013 - Present

  • Member, International Association of Hydro-environmental Research

    2011 - Present

  • Chair, Scientific & Organising Committee, elford/SAGES Workshop on Applied sediment Dynamics, Glasgow

    2009 - 2009

  • External Examiner, MSc Programme in Coastal Engineering, University of West Indies

    0 - Present

  • Guest Editor, Forecast of Extreme Events in the Water Cycle

    2015 - Present

  • Guest Editor, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering

    2015 - Present

  • Associate Member, Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka

    2000 - Present

  • Member, Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Management

    2015 - Present

  • Member, Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network

    2013 - Present

  • Scientific Committee, Seventh International Conference on Flood Management

    2017 - Present

  • Deputy Chair, IMA International Conference in Flood Risk

    2015 - Present

  • IMA International Conference in Flood Risk, IMA International Conference in Flood Risk

    2015 - Present

Awards And Prizes

Date Description
2016 JAMSTEC Nakanishi Award, Federation of Ocean Engineering Societies, Japan
2012 Selected for EPSRC Sandpit on ‘Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk management’
0 EPSRC Post-doctoral fellowship, University of Plymouth
0 DEFRA/EA Post-doctoral research fellowship, University of Plymouth
2000 Award for Outstanding Research Performance, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
1990 Best B.Sc (Engineering) Final Year Project in Water Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
2001 Nominated for Presidents award for Outstanding Academic Research
1997 Danish Technical Research Council Post-doctoral research fellowship, Technical University of Denmark
0 MONBUSHO Scholarship for outstanding Sri Lankans to conduct research at PhD level, Government of Japan

Invited Presentations, Lectures and Conferences

Date Description
2015 Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan
2015 Analysis of multi-scale beach change, Kanazawa University, Japan
2014 Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan
2013 Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University
2014 ICCE2014, Seoul, Korea – short course on ‘Climate change effects on coastal engineering problems’
2011 Kansas State University, US Modelling impacts of climate variability on the coastal zone
2010 GCOE-ARS Science and Education Programme, University of Kyoto, Japan
2009 University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, Climate Change and Coastal Water Bodies - Predicting the Future: Near and Far
2008 University of Newcastle, UK. A Systems Models for Estuary Morphology
1999 International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme Workshop on Estuary Modeling and Coastal Zone Management, Sri Lanka


Recent and current research projects: 

-          EcoWAtt2020 (EPSRC)

Strategic marine planning for future phases of wave, tidal and offshore wind development is now in progress. EcoWatt2050 project has been specifically designed to answer following questions raised by planners and licensing authorities (1) How can marine planning be used to lay the foundation for the sustainable development of very large scale arrays of marine renewable energy devices? (2) What criteria should be used to determine the ecological limits to marine renewable energy extraction, and what are the implications for very large scale array characteristics? (3) How can we differentiate the effects of climate change from energy extraction on the marine ecosystem? (4) Are there ways in which marine renewables development may ameliorate or exacerbate the predicted effects of climate change on marine ecosystems? The overarching objective is thus to determine ways in which marine spatial planning and policy development, can enable the maximum level of marine energy extraction, while minimizing environmental impacts and ensuring that these meet the legal criteria established by European law.

-          FloodMEMORY: Multi event modelling of risk and recovery (EPSRC)

The project will look at the most critical flood scenarios caused by sequences or clusters of extreme weather events striking vulnerable coastal and river systems, communities and businesses. The project will analyse and simulate situations where a second flood may strike before coastal or river defences have been reinstated after damage, or householders and small businesses are in a vulnerable condition recovering from the first flood. By examining such events and identifying the worst case scenarios, we hope our findings will lead to enhanced flood resilience and better allocation of resources for protection and recovery. Ultimately the processes developed could be used worldwide. Other aspects of the project will look at how coasts (beaches, dunes and engineered defences) and rivers behave during storms. Of particular interest is the effect of previous storms and floods moving sediment (i.e. shingle, sand and river bed material) so that the beach or river is in a different (perhaps weaker) condition when a second flood event arrives.

-          iCOASST: Integrated coastal sediment systems (NERC)

Prediction of changing coastal morphology over timescales of decades raises scientific challenges to which there are not yet widely applicable solutions. Yet improved predictions are essential in order to quantify the risk of coastal erosion. Whilst ‘bottom-up’ process-based models provide valuable evidence about hydrodynamic, sediment transport and morphodynamic processes in the short term, their predictive accuracy over scales of decades is for the time being fundamentally limited. Meanwhile, behavioural systems models, that focus on the main processes and feedback mechanisms that regulate coastal form have been shown to have predictive capability at the mesoscale (10-100 years and 10-100 km). However, their application has been limited to a rather narrow sub-set of coastal forms. The iCOASST project is based upon a hierarchical systems concept which combines (i) the beneficial features of process-based models, (ii) a new generation of coastal behavioural systems models, and (iii) an extended approach to coastal systems mapping, which can be used to systematise and formalise different sources of knowledge about coastal behaviour. All the software developed within iCoast will be open source and OpenMI compliant.

-          TeraWatt: Large scale Interactive coupled 3D modelling for wave and tidal energy resource and environmental impact ( EPSRC)

As part of the licensing arrangements for marine energy development projects, environmental impacts on the immediate vicinity of the energy device arrays will be addressed in the EIA process. It is essential however that the regulatory authorities understand how a number of multi-site developments collectively impact on the physical and biological environment over a wider region. At a regional scale, careful selection of sites may enable the optimum exploitation of the resource while minimising environmental impacts to an acceptable limit. The Terawatt project will investigate (i) The best way to assess the wave and tidal energy resource and the effects of energy extraction on the resource itself and (ii) The physical and ecological consequences of wave and tidal energy extraction. The project will use a collection of state of the art coastal area models to investigate these aspects in order to generate a suite of methodologies that can provide better understanding of, and be used to access, the alteration of the resource from energy extraction, and of the physical and ecological consequence.