14 Feb 2023
 | 14 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Return levels of extreme European windstorms, their dependency on the NAO, and potential future risks

Matthew D. K. Priestley, David B. Stephenson, Adam A. Scaife, Daniel Bannister, Christopher J. T. Allen, and David Wilkie

Abstract. Windstorms are the most damaging natural hazard across western Europe. Risk modellers are limited by the observational data record to only ∼60 years of comprehensive reanalysis data that is dominated by considerable inter-annual variability. This makes estimating return periods of rare events difficult and sensitive to choice of historical period used. This study proposes a novel statistical method for estimating wind gusts across Europe based on observed windstorm footprints from the WISC project. Estimates of the 10-year and 200-year return levels are provided. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is particularly important for modulating lower return levels and setting the tail location parameter, with a less detectable influence on rarer extremes and the tail scale parameter. The optimal length of historical data required to make an accurate return level estimation is quantified using both observed and simulated timeseries of the historical NAO. For estimating 200-year return levels, a data catalogue of at least 20 years is required. For lower return levels the NAO has a stronger influence on estimated return levels and so there is more variability in estimates. Using recent estimates of plausible future NAO states, return levels are largely outside the historical uncertainty, indicating significant increases in risk potential from windstorms in the next 100 years. Our method presents a framework for assessing high return period losses across a range of hazards without the additional complexities of a full catastrophe model.

Matthew D. K. Priestley et al.

Status: open (until 10 Apr 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2023-22', Anonymous Referee #1, 24 Mar 2023 reply

Matthew D. K. Priestley et al.

Matthew D. K. Priestley et al.


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Short summary
This research presents a model for estimating extreme gusts associated with European windstorms. Using observed storm footprints we are able to calculate the return level of events at the 200-year return period. Largest gusts are found across NW Europe and these are larger when the North Atlantic Oscillation is positive. Using future climate states we find that return levels are likely to increase across NW Europe to levels that are unprecedented compared to historical storms.