Marine Science Faculty Publications

North Sea Storminess from a Novel Storm Surge Record since AD 1843

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North Atlantic Oscillation, Sea level, Severe storms, Storm environments, Storm surges, Climate records

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The detection of potential long-term changes in historical storm statistics and storm surges plays a vitally important role for protecting coastal communities. In the absence of long homogeneous wind records, the authors present a novel, independent, and homogeneous storm surge record based on water level observations in the North Sea since 1843. Storm surges are characterized by considerable interannual-to-decadal variability linked to large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. Time periods of increased storm surge levels prevailed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries without any evidence for significant long-term trends. This contradicts with recent findings based on reanalysis data, which suggest increasing storminess in the region since the late nineteenth century. The authors compare the wind and pressure fields from the Twentieth-Century Reanalysis (20CRv2) with the storm surge record by applying state-of-the-art empirical wind surge formulas. The comparison reveals that the reanalysis is a valuable tool that leads to good results over the past 100 yr; previously the statistical relationship fails, leaving significantly lower values in the upper percentiles of the predicted surge time series. These low values lead to significant upward trends over the entire investigation period, which are in turn supported by neither the storm surge record nor an independent circulation index based on homogeneous pressure readings. The authors therefore suggest that these differences are related to higher uncertainties in the earlier years of the 20CRv2 over the North Sea region.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Climate, v. 27, issue 10, p. 3582-3595