Simulating major storm surge events in a complex coastal region

Elin Andrée*, Jian Su, Morten Andreas Dahl Larsen, Kristine Skovgaard Madsen, Martin Drews

*Corresponding author for this work

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Climate change and increased coastal urbanization are causing low-lying coastlines to become increasingly susceptible to the threat of extreme water levels and coastal flooding. Robust decision-making on adaptation in the coastal zone, based on reliable ocean-modelling tools, is therefore crucially contingent on accurate assessments of current and future storm surge hazards. This accuracy relies considerably on the quality of the wind forcing used in the ocean models. In this paper, we use a high-resolution, regional 3D ocean model (HBM) covering the North Sea and Baltic Sea to simulate extreme water levels during three extreme storm surge events with different dynamics and patterns, in order to assess their impacts along Denmark’s coastlines, which are of varying levels of complexity. We demonstrate that the model is able to reproduce the observed extreme high-water levels accurately, indicating that the system is well suited for producing simulations of present and future projections of extreme storm surges with high resulting impacts and damage potentials. Additionally, we quantify the level at which acknowledged deficiencies in the otherwise most suitable atmospheric forcing data set influence the results of the storm surge simulations. We found that reducing the temporal resolution of the forcing data – that is, replacing two out of every six time stamps with linearly interpolated values – is preferable to using the original forcing data set when recurring noise is present in these time stamps. As a result, for given storm surge events, and depending on the stage reached in the storm’s evolution, mean absolute errors can be reduced by 4.5 cm. This emphasizes the importance of considering such model fluctuations when coupling high-resolution atmosphere and ocean models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101802
JournalOcean Modelling
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Storm surges
  • Modelling
  • Atmospheric forcing
  • Climate change
  • North Sea
  • Baltic Sea

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