Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 3–15 | Cite as

Climate change and North Sea storm surge extremes: an ensemble study of storm surge extremes expected in a changed climate projected by four different regional climate models

  • Katja WothEmail author
  • Ralf Weisse
  • Hans von Storch
Original paper


The coastal zones are facing the prospect of changing storm surge statistics due to anthropogenic climate change. In the present study, we examine these prospects for the North Sea based on numerical modelling. The main tool is the barotropic tide-surge model TRIMGEO (Tidal Residual and Intertidal Mudflat Model) to derive storm surge climate and extremes from atmospheric conditions. The analysis is carried out by using an ensemble of four 30-year atmospheric regional simulations under present-day and possible future-enhanced greenhouse gas conditions. The atmospheric regional simulations were prepared within the EU project PRUDENCE (Prediction of Regional scenarios and Uncertainties for Defining EuropeaN Climate change risks and Effects). The research strategy of PRUDENCE is to compare simulations of different regional models driven by the same global control and climate change simulations. These global conditions, representative for 1961–1990 and 2071–2100 were prepared by the Hadley Center based on the IPCC A2 SRES scenario. The results suggest that under future climatic conditions, storm surge extremes may increase along the North Sea coast towards the end of this century. Based on a comparison between the results of the different ensemble members as well as on the variability estimated from a high-resolution storm surge reconstruction of the recent decades it is found that this increase is significantly different from zero at the 95% confidence level for most of the North Sea coast. An exception represents the East coast of the UK which is not affected by this increase of storm surge extremes.


Ensemble modelling Dynamical downscaling Storm surge Extreme events Climate change North Sea 



The research was carried out as part of the PRUDENCE (Prediction of Regional scenarios and Uncertainties for Defining EuropeaN Climate change risks and Effects) funded by the European Commission under Framework Programme V Key Action “Global change, climate and biodiversity”, 2002–2005. Contract No. EVK2-CT2001-00132. We are grateful to Saskia Esselborn and Reiner Schnur for many fruitful discussions and their technical support. Atmospheric data to drive our storm surge model were kindly provided by Frauke Feser (GKSS), Ole Bøssing Christensen (DMI), Anders Ullerstig (SMHI), Burkhardt Rockel (GKSS) and Tido Semmler (formerly MPIfM).


  1. Aspelien T, Weisse R (2005) Assimilation of sea level observations for multi-decadal regional ocean model simulations for the North Sea. GKSS report 2005/2Google Scholar
  2. Casulli V, Cattani E (1994) Stability, accuracy and efficiency of a semi-implicit method for three dimensional shallow water flow computers. Math Applic 27:99–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Casulli V, Stelling GS (1998) Numerical simulation of 3D quasi-hydrostatic, free-surface flows. J Hydr Eng 124:678–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chabert d’Hieres G, Le Provost C (1978): Atlas des composantes harmoniques de la marée dans la Manche. Les annales hydrographiques, 6, Fascicule 3Google Scholar
  5. Christensen JH, Christensen OB, Lopez P, VanMeijgaard E, and Botzet M (1996) The HIRHAM4 Regional Atmospheric Climate Model. Scientific report. DMI, Copenhagen 96–4: 51Google Scholar
  6. Christensen JH, Carter T, Giorgi F (2002) PRUDENCE employs new methods to assess European climate change. EOS. 83:147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coles S (2001) An introduction to statistical modeling of extreme values. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies HC (1976) A lateral boundary formulation for multi-level prediction models. Quart J R Meteor Soc 102:405–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Döscher R, Willén U, Jones C, Rutgersson A, Meier HEM, Hansson U, Graham LP (2002) The development of the coupled regional ocean-atmosphere model RCAO. Boreal Env Res 7:183–192Google Scholar
  10. Dolata LF, Roeckner E, Behr H (1983) Prognostic storm surge simulation with a combined meteorological/oceanographic model. In: Sündermann J and Lenz W (eds) North Sea dynamics. Springer: Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 266–278Google Scholar
  11. Feser F, Weisse R, von Storch H (2001) Multidecadel atmosperic modelling for Europe yields multi purpose data. EOS 82:305–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fischer-Bruns I, von Storch H, González-Rouco F, Zorita E (2005) Modelling the variability of midlatitude storm activity on decadal to century time scales. Clim Dyn (in press)Google Scholar
  13. Flather R, Smith J (1998) First estimates of changes in extreme storm surge elevation due to doubling CO2 Global Atmos. Ocean Sys 6:193–208Google Scholar
  14. Flather R, Smith J, Richards J, Bell C, Blackman D (1998) Direct estimates of extreme surge elevation from a 40 year numerical model simulation and from observations. Global Atmos Ocean Sys 6:165–176Google Scholar
  15. Gönnert G, Dube SK, Murty, Siefert T (hrsg) (2001) Global storm surges. Theory, observations and applications. Boyens& Co, Heide. Die Küste 63, 623 p. ISBN 3-8042-1054-6Google Scholar
  16. Heaps NS (1983) Storm surges, 1967–1982. Geophys J R astr Soc 74:331–376Google Scholar
  17. Hervouet JM, Van Haren L (1996) TELEMAC2D Version 3.0/Principle Note. Rapport EDF HE-43/94/052/B. Electricité de France, Département Laboratoire National d’Hydraulique, Chatou CEDEXGoogle Scholar
  18. Houghton JT, Ding Y, Griggs DJ, Noguer M, van der Linden PJ, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson CA (2001) Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 881Google Scholar
  19. Jacob D, Podzun R, Claussen M (1995) REMO—A model for climate research and weather prediction. International workshop on limited-area and variable resolution models, Beijing, China, 23–27 October 1995, pp 273–278Google Scholar
  20. Jones RG, Murphy JM, Noguer M (1995) Simulation of climate change over Europe using a nested regional-climate model I: assessment of control climate, including sensitivity to location of lateral boundaries. Q J R Meteorol Soc 121:1413–1449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jones CG, Willén U, Ullerstig A, Hansson U (2004) The Rossby Centre regional atmospheric climate model part I: model climatology and performance for the present climate over Europe. Ambio. 33:4–5, 199–210Google Scholar
  22. Källén E (1996) HIRLAM Documentation Manual, System 2.5. The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (Available from SMHI, S-60176 Norrköping, Sweden)Google Scholar
  23. Kauker F (1998) Regionalisation of climate model results for the North Sea. PhD Thesis, University of HamburgGoogle Scholar
  24. Kauker F, Langenberg H (2000) Two models for the climate change related development of sea levels in the North Sea. A comparison. Clim Res 15:61–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Langenberg H, Pfizenmayer A, von Storch H, Sündermann J (1999) Storm-related sea level variations along the North Sea coast: natural variability and anthropogenic change. Cont Shelf Research 19:821–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leckebusch GC, Ulbrich U (2004) On the relationship between cyclones and extreme windstorm events over Europe under climate change. Glob planet change (In press)Google Scholar
  27. Lowe JA, Gregory JM, Flather RA (2001) Changes in the occurrence of storm surges in the United Kingdom under a future climate scenario using a dynamic storm surge model driven by the Hadley Center climate models. Clim Dyn 18:197–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Meier HEM, Döscher R, Faxén T (2003) A multiprocessor coupled ice-ocean model for the Baltic Sea: application to salt inflow. J Geophys Res 108: C8, 3273, doi:10.1029/2000JC000521Google Scholar
  29. Machenhauer B, Windelband M, Botzet M, Hesselbjerg J, Déqué M, Jones GR, Ruti PM, Visconti G (1998) Validation and analysis of regional present-day climate and climate change simulations over Europe. Max-Planck Institute of Meteorology Hamburg, Report No. 275, 87 ppGoogle Scholar
  30. OSPAR Commision (2000) Quality status report 2000. LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Petersen M, Rohde H (1991) Sturmflut. Die grossen Fluten an den Küsten Schleswig Holsteins und der Elbe. NeumünsterGoogle Scholar
  32. Plüss A (2003) Das Nordseemodell der BAW zur Simulation der Tide in der Deutschen Bucht. Die Küste 67:83–127Google Scholar
  33. Rauthe M, Hense A, Paeth H (2004) A model intercomparison study of climate change-signals in extratropical circulation. Int J Climatol 24: 643–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB, Folland CK, Alexander LV, Rowell DP, Kent EC, Kaplan A (2003) Global analyses of SST, sea ice and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res, 108 (D14), 4407, doi:10.1029/2002JD002670Google Scholar
  35. Roeckner E, Arpe K, Bengtsson L, Christoph M, Claussen M, Dümenil L, Esch M, Giorgetta M, Schlese U, Schulzweida U (1996) The atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM-4: model description and simulation of present-day climate, Report No. 218, 90 pp, Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, MPI, HamburgGoogle Scholar
  36. Rummukainen M, Räisänen J, Bringfelt B, Ullerstig A, Omstedt A, Willén U, Hansson U, Jones C (2001) A regional climate model for northern Europe: model description and results from the downscaling of two GCM control simulations. Clim Dyn 17:339–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sotillo MG (2003) High resolution multi-decadal atmospheric reanalysis in the Mediterranean Basin. PhD ThesisGoogle Scholar
  38. von Storch H, Langenberg H, Feser F (2000) A spectral nudging technique for dynamical downscaling purposes. Mon Wea Rev 128:3664–3673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. STOWASUS-Group (2001) Regional storm, wave and surge scenarios for the 2100 century. Stowasus-final report, DMI. Available from the EU-Commission, DGXIIGoogle Scholar
  40. WASA-Group (1998) Changing waves and storm in the Northern Atlantic?. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 79:741–760Google Scholar
  41. Weisse R, Feser F (2003) Evaluation of a method to reduce uncertainty in wind hindcasts performed with regional atmosphere models. Coast Eng 48:211–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Weisse R, von Storch H, Feser F (2005) Northeast Atlantic and North Sea storminess as simulated by a regional climate model 1958–2001 and comparison with observations. J Clim 18:465–479CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Coastal ResearchGKSS-Research CentreGeesthachtGermany
  2. 2.Department of MeteorologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations