Determining sea level change in the German Bight


Regional mean sea level changes in the German Bight are considered. Index time series derived from 15 tide gauge records are analysed. Two different methods for constructing the index time series are used. The first method uses arithmetic means based on all available data for each time step. The second method uses empirical orthogonal functions. Both methods produce rather similar results for the time period 1924–2008. For this period, we estimate that regional mean sea level increased at rates between 1.64 and 1.74 mm/year with a 90% confidence range of 0.28 mm/year in each case. Before 1924, only data from a few tide gauges are available with the longest record in Cuxhaven ranging back till 1843. Data from these tide gauges, in particular from Cuxhaven, thus receive increasingly more weight when earlier years are considered. It is therefore analysed to what extent data from Cuxhaven are representative for the regional sea level changes in the German Bight. While this cannot be clarified before 1924, it is found that this is not the case from 1924 onwards when changes in Cuxhaven can be compared to that derived from a larger data set. Furthermore, decadal variability was found to be substantial with relatively high values towards the end of the analysis period. However, these values are not unusual when compared to earlier periods.

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  1. 1.

    Mean sea level and tidal analysis at the German North Sea coastline

  2. 2.

    Note that in the Cuxhaven data a linear trend was added from the year 1855 to the year 1900 (Jensen 1984) to account for vertical land movements. This trend was removed before analysing the data in order to get the relative MSL time series comparable to the other tide gauges.


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We thank Hanz Niemeyer from the NLWKN-Forschungsstelle Küste for providing us with the digitised data of the Gewässerkundlichen Jahrbücher (GJ). Furthermore, we thank Ivan Haigh for the help with the English language. This work is a contribution to the “Helmholtz Climate Initiative REKLIM” (Regional Climate Change), a joint research project of the Helmholtz Association of German research centres (HGF).

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Correspondence to Frauke Albrecht.

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Responsible Editor: Birgit Klein

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Albrecht, F., Wahl, T., Jensen, J. et al. Determining sea level change in the German Bight. Ocean Dynamics 61, 2037–2050 (2011).

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  • Regional mean sea level changes
  • German Bight
  • Reconstruction methods
  • Data homogenisation
  • Accelerating sea level rise