AbstractThe coupling of models is a commonly used approach when addressing the complex interactions between different components of earth systems. We demonstrate that this approach can result in a reduction of errors in wave forecasting, especially in dynamically complicated coastal ocean areas, such as the southern part of the North Sea – the German Bight. Here, we study the effects of coupling of an atmospheric model (COSMO) and a wind wave model (WAM), which is enabled by implementing wave-induced drag in the atmospheric model. The numerical simulations use a regional North Sea coupled wave–atmosphere model as well as a nested-grid high-resolution German Bight wave model. Using one atmospheric and two wind wave models simultaneously allows for study of the individual and combined effects of two-way coupling and grid resolution. This approach proved to be particularly important under severe storm conditions as the German Bight is a very shallow and dynamically complex coastal area exposed to storm floods. The two-way coupling leads to a reduction of both surface wind speeds and simulated wave heights. In this study, the sensitivity of atmospheric parameters, such as wind speed and atmospheric pressure, to the wave-induced drag, in particular under storm conditions, and the impact of two-way coupling on the wave model performance, is quantified. Comparisons between data from in situ and satellite altimeter observations indicate that two-way coupling improves the simulation of wind and wave parameters of the model and justify its implementation for both operational and climate simulations.