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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

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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.

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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).

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Correspondence to Katja Woth.

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Responsible Editor Jean-Marie Beckers

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Woth, K., Weisse, R. & von Storch, H. 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. Ocean Dynamics 56, 3–15 (2006).

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