AbstractThe multi-decadal wave conditions in the North Sea can be influenced by anthropogenic climate change. That may lead to the intensification of wave extremes in the future and consequently increase risks for the coastal areas as well as for on- and offshore human activities. Potential changes caused by alteration of atmospheric patterns are investigated. Four transient climate projections (1961–2100), reflecting two IPCC emission scenarios (A1B and B1) and two different initial states, are used to simulate the wave scenarios. The potential wind-induced changes in waves are studied by comparing future statistics (2001–2100) with the corresponding reference conditions (1961–2000). Generally, there is a small increase in future 99th percentile significant wave height for most eastern parts of the North Sea towards the end of the twenty-first century. This small increase is superimposed by a strong variability of the annual extremes on time scales of decades. Opposite to the differences in wave height, the change in wave direction to more waves propagating east shows less decadal variability and is more uniform among all realizations. Nevertheless, temporal and spatial differences of the wave height in the four climate projections point to the uncertainties in the climate change signals.