A team of scientists have begun scanning the seabed off the coast of Devon in order to better prepare for coastal erosion caused by climate change.

The Titan Discovery vessel is mapping the seabed off the coast of Dawlish and Babbacombe – areas where millions of pounds is being spent to save the coastline from rising sea levels.

The boat and scientific kit on board costs more than £1m.

The operation – in part funded by the Environment Agency – is being led by the South West Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme (SWRCMP). It is the largest of the UK’s coastal monitoring programmes, keeping a check on more than 2,000km of coast.

Ruth Adams, from the SWRCMP, told Sky News the aim is to better understand what is happening below the surface of the sea at spots where coastal erosion is at its worst.

What we often don’t get is a picture and understanding of what’s happening under the seabed – so that’s why we’ve procured Titan to do a survey for us so we can really understand when the cliffs erode, when the beaches lose sand – where’s it going? she said.

The data will be used by flood prevention teams to better maintain coastlines.

Rising sea levels and more frequent floods are putting coastal communities across the UK at risk.

Sea levels around the UK are expected to rise by at least a metre by 2100, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The CCC – which advises the UK government – also says more than half a million properties are at risk to coastal flooding, with nearly 9,000 at risk of being lost to coastal erosion.

The Environment Agency is spending £2.6bn on flood and coastal protection by 2021 in a bid to protect 300,000 homes.

But Robert Barnett, an environmental researcher from the University of Exeter, told Sky News the war against water cannot be won in all locations.

It will not be possible to have hard infrastructure and have a hold-the-line approach across the entire coastline. You’re not going to stop the water in certain places but what you can do is review the management strategies in certain parts of the coastline.

Earlier this year, the head of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said climate change was accelerating and multiplying flood risks in the UK.

Climate change and population growth in England means properties built in the floodplain will double over the next 50 years, so sustained investment is needed to prevent flood damage increasing significantly, she said.

(c) Sky News 2019: Titan Discovery vessel starts scanning seabed to help save coastline