Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
13 Apr 2012
Research article |  | 13 Apr 2012

Past and recent trends in the western Black Sea storminess

N. N. Valchev, E. V. Trifonova, and N. K. Andreeva

Abstract. Storms are one of the most important phenomena producing coastal hazards and endangering human life and activities. In recent decades storm climate has become a subject of increased public awareness and knowledge of this issue can help the society to meet future challenges related to extreme storm manifestation. Therefore, the goal of this study is to assess trends in past and recent storminess in the western Black Sea. The analysis of storm climate is based on a continuous hindcast dataset covering a substantial historical time-span of 63 yr (1948–2010). It was used to create a storm population and to estimate properties describing storminess (proxies). This was done by introduction of criteria allowing separation of events with low probability of occurrence and at the same time keeping the information on their pattern, i.e. properties of storm phases. Eleven storminess proxies were analysed and the most indicative appeared to be storm duration; integral, mean and specific storm wave energy; and wind velocity and direction, which were obtained for each storm season.

While experiencing significant variability on a quasi-decadal scale, no significant upward or downward trends in storminess were detected. For almost all proxies, an increasing trend until the 1980s or the 1990s and a return to average or even calm conditions in the late 2000s are traceable. On this background, a steady although not significant increase of wind velocity was detected. Results also indicate an alteration of storm pattern, manifested as shortening of storm duration due to a shift of the prevailing direction of storm forcing winds to the north. Nevertheless, incident wave energy in the storms' most intense phase remains significant. The obtained results are discussed with regard to the influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation on the hydrometeorological pattern of the Black Sea region as a part of the European-Atlantic area, in particular with respect to the cyclonic activity.