Climate change impact on extreme wave conditions in the North Sea: An ensemble study


An analysis of today’s mean and extreme wave conditions in the North Sea and their possible future changes due to anthropogenic climate change are presented. The sea state was simulated for the 30-year period 2071–2100 using the wave model WAM and an ensemble of wind field data sets for four climate change realizations as driving data. The wind field data sets are based on simulation outputs from two global circulation models (GCMs: HadAM3H and ECHAM4/OPYC3) for two emission scenarios (A2 and B2, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Special Report on Emission Scenarios). They were regionalized by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute using the regional climate model RCAO. The effects of the climate realizations on the sea state statistics were assessed by analyzing the differences between the patterns in the four CGM/emission scenario combinations and those in two control simulations representing reference wave climate conditions for the 30-year period 1961–1990. The analysis of the four emission scenario/GCM combinations has shown that the future long-term 99 percentile wind speed and significant wave height increase by up to 7% and 18%, respectively, in the North Sea, except for significant wave height off the English coast and to the north in the HadAM3H-driven simulation. The climate change response in the ECHAM4/OPYC3-forced experiments is generally larger than in the HadAM3H-driven simulations. The differences in future significant wave height between the different combinations are in the same order of magnitude as those between the control runs for the two GCMs. Nevertheless, there is agreement among the four combinations that extreme wave heights may increase in large parts in the southern and eastern North Sea by about 0.25 to 0.35 m (5–8% of present values) towards the end of the twenty first century in case of global warming. All combinations also show an increase in future frequency of severe sea state.
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