Reconstruction of wind and surge of the 1906 storm tide at the German North Sea coast


Storm tides represent a major threat to the low-lying German North Sea coast. Knowledge of extremes is essential for the design of reliable and robust coastal defences. A storm tide that occurred on 12–13 March 1906 along the German Bight coastline still represents one of the strongest events on record. For this event, detailed knowledge of atmospheric and hydrodynamic conditions is still lacking. To assess the potential impact of such an event on today's coastline, century-long atmospheric reanalysis data together with a manual synoptic reconstruction based on archived weather data were used to drive a tide-surge model and to simulate water levels during the event. Sensitivity experiments were performed to estimate potential amplification of water levels that could have been caused by different time lags between the storm and the astronomical tide. Comparison between the model results and the limited available observational data indicated that the water levels could be reasonably reconstructed using wind fields from the manual synoptic approach and some of the reanalysis ensemble members. The amplification potential was found to be low because the storm occurred during spring tide and shifts in the phase of the astronomic tide yielded only small changes in total water levels. To summarise, if pressure data are available at relevant locations, historical storm surges can be simulated with reanalysis products and also with a manual synoptic reconstruction.
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