Coastal flooding: impact of waves on storm surge during extremes – a case study for the German Bight
Abstract. This study addresses the impact of wind, waves, tidal forcing and baroclinicity on the sea level of the German Bight during extreme storm events. The role of wave-induced processes, tides and baroclinicity is quantified, and the results are compared with in situ measurements and satellite data. A coupled high-resolution modelling system is used to simulate wind waves, the water level and the three-dimensional hydrodynamics. The models used are the wave model WAM and the circulation model GETM. The two-way coupling is performed via the OASIS3-MCT coupler. The effects of wind waves on sea level variability are studied, accounting for wave-dependent stress, wave-breaking parameterization and wave-induced effects on vertical mixing. The analyses of the coupled model results reveal a closer match with observations than for the stand-alone circulation model, especially during the extreme storm Xaver in December 2013. The predicted surge of the coupled model is significantly enhanced during extreme storm events when considering wave–current interaction processes. This wave-dependent approach yields a contribution of more than 30 % in some coastal areas during extreme storm events. The contribution of a fully three-dimensional model compared with a two-dimensional barotropic model showed up to 20 % differences in the water level of the coastal areas of the German Bight during Xaver. The improved skill resulting from the new developments justifies further use of the coupled-wave and three-dimensional circulation models in coastal flooding predictions.