The changes in sea level rise, tides, waves and storm surge over the 21st century find global warming could cause extreme sea levels to increase significantly along Europe’s coasts by 2100. Extreme sea levels are the maximum levels of the sea that occur during a major storm and produce massive flooding.
The increase in frequency of these events that are today considered exceptional will likely push existing coastal protection structures beyond their design limits, leaving a large part of Europe’s coastal zones exposed to flooding.
Northern Europe will see the strongest increase in extreme sea levels. Areas along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea could see these 100-year extreme sea level events several times a year. In the North Sea region, extreme sea levels could increase by nearly 1 meter (3 feet) under the worst-case scenario. The Atlantic coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland could see similar increases in extreme sea levels, while lower but still considerable increases in extreme sea levels are projected for the Norwegian and Baltic seas.
The new research considers how all components that can influence extreme sea levels, including the mean sea level, tides, waves and storm surge, will be affected by climate change. The researchers used information about these different components to project changes in extreme sea levels by 2100 under different greenhouse gas scenarios. Using all of these components provides a more accurate projection of how extreme sea levels will change this century.