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The exceptional influence of storm ‘Xaver’ on design water levels in the German Bight

Dangendorf, S., Arns, A., Pinto, J. G., Ludwig, P. and Jensen, J. (2016) The exceptional influence of storm ‘Xaver’ on design water levels in the German Bight. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (5). 054001. ISSN 1748-9326

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/5/054001

Abstract/Summary

Design water levels for coastal structures are usually estimated based on extreme value statistics. Since their robustness depends heavily on the sample size of observations, regular statistical updates are needed, especially after extreme events. Here, we demonstrate the exceptional influence of such an event based on storm 'Xaver', which caused record breaking water levels for large parts of the southwestern German North Sea coastline on 6 December 2013. We show that the water level estimates for a 1 in 200 years event increased by up to 40 cm due to the update after 'Xaver', a value twice as large as the estimated regional sea level rise for the entire 20th century. However, a thorough analysis of different independent meteorological (winds and pressure) and oceanographic components (tides, surges, mean sea level (MSL) anomalies) driving the event reveals that their observed combination does not yet represent the physically possible worst case scenario. Neither tides, nor surges nor MSL anomalies were at their observational maximum, suggesting that there is a realistic risk of a storm like 'Xaver' to cause even higher extreme water levels by a few decimetres under current climate conditions. Our results question purely statistical design approaches of coastal structures, which neglect the physical boundary conditions of individual extreme events.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:65959
Publisher:Institute of Physics

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