Trends in Europe storm surge extremes match the rate of sea-level rise

Calafat, Francisco M. ORCID:; Wahl, Thomas; Tadesse, Michael Getachew; Sparrow, Sarah N.. 2022 Trends in Europe storm surge extremes match the rate of sea-level rise. Nature, 603 (7903). 841-845.

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Coastal communities across the world are already feeling the disastrous impacts of climate change through variations in extreme sea levels1. These variations reflect the combined effect of sea-level rise and changes in storm surge activity. Understanding the relative importance of these two factors in altering the likelihood of extreme events is crucial to the success of coastal adaptation measures. Existing analyses of tide gauge records2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 agree that sea-level rise has been a considerable driver of trends in sea-level extremes since at least 1960. However, the contribution from changes in storminess remains unclear, owing to the difficulty of inferring this contribution from sparse data and the consequent inconclusive results that have accumulated in the literature11,12. Here we analyse tide gauge observations using spatial Bayesian methods13 to show that, contrary to current thought, trends in surge extremes and sea-level rise both made comparable contributions to the overall change in extreme sea levels in Europe since 1960 . We determine that the trend pattern of surge extremes reflects the contributions from a dominant north–south dipole associated with internal climate variability and a single-sign positive pattern related to anthropogenic forcing. Our results demonstrate that both external and internal influences can considerably affect the likelihood of surge extremes over periods as long as 60 years, suggesting that the current coastal planning practice of assuming stationary surge extremes1,14 might be inadequate.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0028-0836
Date made live: 07 Apr 2022 14:36 +0 (UTC)

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