The Contribution of Wind-Generated Waves to Coastal Sea-Level Changes

  • Guillaume DodetEmail author
  • Angélique Melet
  • Fabrice Ardhuin
  • Xavier Bertin
  • Déborah Idier
  • Rafael Almar


Surface gravity waves generated by winds are ubiquitous on our oceans and play a primordial role in the dynamics of the ocean–land–atmosphere interfaces. In particular, wind-generated waves cause fluctuations of the sea level at the coast over timescales from a few seconds (individual wave runup) to a few hours (wave-induced setup). These wave-induced processes are of major importance for coastal management as they add up to tides and atmospheric surges during storm events and enhance coastal flooding and erosion. Changes in the atmospheric circulation associated with natural climate cycles or caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions affect the wave conditions worldwide, which may drive significant changes in the wave-induced coastal hydrodynamics. Since sea-level rise represents a major challenge for sustainable coastal management, particularly in low-lying coastal areas and/or along densely urbanized coastlines, understanding the contribution of wind-generated waves to the long-term budget of coastal sea-level changes is therefore of major importance. In this review, we describe the physical processes by which sea states may affect coastal sea level at several timescales, we present the methods currently used to estimate the wave contribution to coastal sea-level changes, we describe past and future wave climate variability, we discuss the contribution of wave to coastal sea-level changes, and we discuss the limitations and perspectives of this research field.


Wind waves Sea level Coastal zone Climate change 



This paper arose from the international workshop on “Understanding the Relationship between Coastal Sea Level and Large-Scale Ocean Circulation” held at the International Space Science Institute (ISSI), Bern, Switzerland, on March 5–9, 2018. The authors are grateful to Anny Cazenave for taking charge of the implementation of this special issue. GD is supported by the ESA Sea State Climate Change Initiative. FA is supported by Labex Mer via Grant ANR-10-LABX-19-01, and the ESA Sea State Climate Change Initiative. XB is supported by the Regional Chair Project EVEX. DI is supported by BRGM and ANR projects (PSO COTIER and RISCOPE) and is thankful to Jérémy Rohmer for constructive discussions on the meta-models.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR 6253 LOPSCNRS-Ifremer-IRD-Univiversity of Brest BrestPlouzanéFrance
  2. 2.Mercator OceanRamonville Saint AgneFrance
  3. 3.UMR 7266 LIENSs, CNRS - La Rochelle UniversityLa RochelleFrance
  4. 4.BRGMOrléans CédexFrance
  5. 5.UMR 5566 LEGOSToulouse Cédex 9France

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