Download the research paper
The team analyzed storms that occur on average once every decade. A comparison between 1951-1980 and 2021-2050 shows that storm surges could increase by up to twenty percent. This could contribute to increased flood risk. The research was recently published in Future Earth.
“Our research contributes to a better understanding of future storm surges,” explains Sanne Mois. “Using advanced, high-resolution climate models allows us to capture changes in storm patterns that were previously inaccessible. While many questions remain unanswered, this work represents a leap forward. It shows that they are a result of climate change.” Many regions could experience greater variation in storm patterns. This is valuable information for communities, governments and organizations as they make informed decisions about coastal development, disaster preparedness and resilient infrastructure. “
Changes in storm levels
The team used the latest CMIP6 climate outlook from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to develop forecasts of storm surges from 1950 to 2050. The Deltares Global Tidal Model (GTSM) is fed by several climate models from the High-Resolution Model Intercomparison Project (HighResMIP). Compared to the coarse resolution of regular CMIP models (100-200 km), HighResMIP models are much more detailed with a resolution of 25-50 km.
Validation over the period 1985–2014 shows good agreement between model output and actual weather data. However, the validation also shows large spatial distortions, indicating that these are regions where climate models do not accurately represent storm patterns. The study compares projected storm surge levels for the period 2021-2050 with historical data from 1951-1980. These results show that changes can occur up to a maximum of twenty percent of the storm surge.
Changes in storm patterns can be different in each part of the world. Some regions such as the Mediterranean, North Africa, and South Australia could see a decrease in storm surges, while others such as South Australia, Alaska, the northern Caribbean, East Africa, China, and the Korean Peninsula could see an increase in storm surges.
The expected changes are not large compared to the large climate fluctuations, model errors, and uncertainties in the analysis of extreme values. Future research is needed to better understand the causes of model biases and search for specific causes of the change in storm surges.
As coastal communities prepare for increased flood risks due to climate change, these findings underscore the importance of potential changes in extreme situations. Using advanced computer models, as here, we can better understand how climate change might affect coastal areas and thus make informed decisions for the future.
Downloadable paper on Earth’s future
The full research paper on the future of the Earth can be accessed. The underlying data for this paper are fully open and available in the Climate Data Store (CDS), managed by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Time series are available here, along with percentages and return periods. Although the article focuses on storm surges, the full dataset also includes time series of total water levels and tides.
The research was conducted through a collaboration between Deltares, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, TU Delft, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, University of Twente, USGS, KNMI, Mercator Ocean, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and the Met Office Hadley Centre.
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