Climate change impact on North Sea wave conditions: a consistent analysis of ten projections


Long-term changes in the mean and extreme wind wave conditions as they may occur in the course of anthropogenic climate change can influence and endanger human coastal and offshore activities. A set of ten wave climate projections derived from time slice and transient simulations of future conditions is analyzed to estimate the possible impact of anthropogenic climate change on mean and extreme wave conditions in the North Sea. This set includes different combinations of IPCC SRES emission scenarios (A2, B2, A1B, and B1), global and regional models, and initial states. A consistent approach is used to provide a more robust assessment of expected changes and uncertainties. While the spatial patterns and the magnitude of the climate change signals vary, some robust features among the ten projections emerge: mean and severe wave heights tend to increase in the eastern parts of the North Sea towards the end of the twenty-first century in nine to ten projections, but the magnitude of the increase in extreme waves varies in the order of decimeters between these projections. For the western parts of the North Sea more than half of the projections suggest a decrease in mean and extreme wave heights. Comparing the different sources of uncertainties due to models, scenarios, and initial conditions, it can be inferred that the influence of the emission scenario on the climate change signal seems to be less important. Furthermore, the transient projections show strong multi-decadal fluctuations, and changes towards the end of the twenty-first century might partly be associated with internal variability rather than with systematic changes.
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