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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-19
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-19
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 06 Mar 2019

Research article | 06 Mar 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Ocean Science (OS) and is expected to appear here in due course.

The long-term variability of extreme sea levels in the German Bight

Andreas Lang1,2 and Uwe Mikolajewicz1 Andreas Lang and Uwe Mikolajewicz
  • 1Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg
  • 2International Max-Planck Research School (IMPRS)

Abstract. We investigate the long-term variability of extreme high sea levels (ESL) in the southern German Bight and associated large-scale forcing mechanisms in the climate system using simulations covering the last 1000 years. To this end, global MPI-ESM simulations from the PMIP3 past1000 project are dynamically scaled-down with a regionally coupled climate system model focusing on the North Sea.

We find that the statistics of simulated ESL compare well with observations from the tide gauge record at Cuxhaven but show large variations on interannual to centennial timescales. ESL arise independent of preferred systematic oscillations and are to a large extent decoupled from variations of the background sea level (BSL). Large scale circulation regimes associated with periods of high ESL are regionally consistent and similar to those associated with elevated BSL, but the location of the respective centers of action of the governing sea level pressure (SLP) dipole differs. While BSL variations correlate well with the wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), ESL variations are rather associated with a dipole between northeastern Scandinavia and the Gulf of Biscay, leading to a stronger local north-westerly wind component in the North Sea. Potential links with solar or volcanic forcing are masked due to the high ESL variability.

The high internal variability stresses the irreducible uncertainties related to traditional extreme value estimates based on shorter subsets which fail to account for long-term variations. Existing estimates of future changes in ESL may be dominated by natural variability rather than climate change signals, thus requiring larger ensemble simulations to assess future flood risks.

Andreas Lang and Uwe Mikolajewicz
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AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Interactive discussion
Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement
Andreas Lang and Uwe Mikolajewicz
Andreas Lang and Uwe Mikolajewicz
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Short summary
Here we investigate the occurrence of extreme storm surges in the southern German Bight and their associated large-scale forcing mechanisms using climate model simulations covering the last 1000 years. We find that extreme storm surges are characterized by a large internal variability that masks potential links to external climate forcing or background sea level fluctuations; existing estimates of extreme sea levels based on short data records thus fail to account for their full variability.
Here we investigate the occurrence of extreme storm surges in the southern German Bight and...
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