Rip currents researched by RNLI and Plymouth University

RNLI lifesavers and scientists from the University of Plymouth have joined forces to investigate how rip currents drag swimmers out to sea.

Every year the RNLI rescues swimmers and surfers caught out by the dangerous currents.

Cameras, GPS equipment and speed meters have been set up at Perranporth on the north coast of Cornwall.

The aim is to track the currents, increase knowledge of how they work and as a result improve beach safety.

'Problem for surfers'

Rip currents are caused by water trapped near the beach rushing back out to sea.

Ross Macleod, the RNLI's beach safety programmes manager, said: "They are a problem particularly for surfers, swimmers and body-boarders, as they can quickly drag them through the surf zone and beyond their depth."

Data will be used to create computer models to predict where dangerous currents may develop.

The research team has been deploying a fleet of floats that mimic the movement of a swimmer and measure the speed and direction of rips.

Professor Paul Russell, from the university's School of Marine Science and Engineering, said: "By working with the RNLI in the field, we can gather the evidence that will enable us to develop a computer model that can predict the rip flow pattern for any given wave, tide and beach condition."

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