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Interpreting Century-Scale Changes in Southern North Sea Storm Surge Climate Derived from Coupled Model Simulations

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  • 1 Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • | 2 National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, United Kingdom
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Abstract

This paper describes numerical experiments using a climate–storm surge simulation system for the coast of the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on the southern North Sea and the Thames estuary in southeastern England.

Time series of surges simulated in the southern North Sea by a surge model driven by atmospheric data from a regional climate model and surges simulated by the same surge model driven by atmospheric data from a global climate model are compared. A strong correspondence is demonstrated, and a linear scaling factor relating them is derived. This factor varies slowly with location. Around the Thames estuary, extreme surges are compared in the same way, and the linear scaling factor for the extremes is found to be similar to that for the full time series. The authors therefore assert that in seeking significant trends in surge at this location using this model arrangement, the regional model downscaling stage could be avoided, if observations were used to establish a suitable scaling factor for each location.

The influence of the tide–surge phase relationship is investigated, and extreme sea levels at the mouth of the River Thames from regional-model-driven simulations are compared to the extreme event of 1953. Although the simulated levels are slightly lower, they are found to be comparable given the observational uncertainty.

The assumption that time-mean sea level changes can be added linearly to surge changes is investigated at this location for large changes in time-mean sea level. The authors find that the primary effect of such an increase is on the speed of propagation of tide and surge, supporting the case for a simple linear addition of mean and extreme sea level changes.

Corresponding author address: Tom Howard, Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB, United Kingdom. Email: tom.howard@metoffice.gov.uk

Abstract

This paper describes numerical experiments using a climate–storm surge simulation system for the coast of the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on the southern North Sea and the Thames estuary in southeastern England.

Time series of surges simulated in the southern North Sea by a surge model driven by atmospheric data from a regional climate model and surges simulated by the same surge model driven by atmospheric data from a global climate model are compared. A strong correspondence is demonstrated, and a linear scaling factor relating them is derived. This factor varies slowly with location. Around the Thames estuary, extreme surges are compared in the same way, and the linear scaling factor for the extremes is found to be similar to that for the full time series. The authors therefore assert that in seeking significant trends in surge at this location using this model arrangement, the regional model downscaling stage could be avoided, if observations were used to establish a suitable scaling factor for each location.

The influence of the tide–surge phase relationship is investigated, and extreme sea levels at the mouth of the River Thames from regional-model-driven simulations are compared to the extreme event of 1953. Although the simulated levels are slightly lower, they are found to be comparable given the observational uncertainty.

The assumption that time-mean sea level changes can be added linearly to surge changes is investigated at this location for large changes in time-mean sea level. The authors find that the primary effect of such an increase is on the speed of propagation of tide and surge, supporting the case for a simple linear addition of mean and extreme sea level changes.

Corresponding author address: Tom Howard, Met Office Hadley Centre, FitzRoy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB, United Kingdom. Email: tom.howard@metoffice.gov.uk

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