Multi-decadal variability in seasonal mean sea level along the North Sea coast

Frederikse, Thomas; Gerkema, Theo

Seasonal deviations from annual-mean sea level in the North Sea region show a large low-frequency component with substantial variability at decadal and multi-decadal timescales. In this study, we quantify low-frequency variability in seasonal deviations from annual-mean sea level and look for drivers of this variability. The amplitude, as well as the temporal evolution of this multi-decadal variability shows substantial variations over the North Sea region, and this spatial pattern is similar to the well-known pattern of the influence of winds and pressure changes on sea level at higher frequencies. The largest low-frequency signals are found in the German Bight and along the Norwegian coast. We find that the variability is much stronger in winter and autumn than in other seasons and that this winter and autumn variability is predominantly driven by wind and sea-level pressure anomalies which are related to large-scale atmospheric patterns. For the spring and summer seasons, this atmospheric forcing explains a smaller fraction of the observed variability.

Large-scale atmospheric patterns have been derived from a principal component analysis of sea-level pressure. The first principal component of sea-level pressure over the North Atlantic Ocean, which is linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), explains the largest fraction of winter-mean variability for most stations, while for some stations, the variability consists of a combination of multiple principal components.

The low-frequency variability in season-mean sea level can manifest itself as trends in short records of seasonal sea level. For multiple stations around the North Sea, running-mean 40-year trends for autumn and winter sea level often exceed the long-term trends in annual mean sea level, while for spring and summer, the seasonal trends have a similar order of magnitude as the annual-mean trends. Removing the variability explained by atmospheric variability vastly reduces the seasonal trends, especially in winter and autumn.



Frederikse, Thomas / Gerkema, Theo: Multi-decadal variability in seasonal mean sea level along the North Sea coast. 2018. Copernicus Publications.


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