AbstractTime variability of Eulerian residual currents in the German Bight (North Sea) is studied drawing on existing multi-decadal 2D barotropic simulations (1.6 km resolution) for the period Jan. 1958–Aug. 2015. Residual currents are calculated as 25 h means of velocity fields stored every hour. Principal component analysis (PCA) reveals that daily variations of these residual currents can be reasonably well represented in terms of only 2–3 degrees of freedom, partly linked to wind directions. The daily data refine monthly data already used in the past. Unlike existing classifications based on subjective assessment, numerical principal components (PCs) provide measures of strength and can directly be incorporated into more comprehensive statistical data analyses. Daily resolution in particular fits the time schedule of data sampled at the German Bight long-term monitoring station at Helgoland Roads. An example demonstrates the use of PCs and corresponding empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) for the interpretation of short-term variations of these local observations. On the other hand, monthly averaging of the daily PCs enables to link up with previous studies on longer timescales.