Wahl, T., Haigh, I.D., Dangendorf, S., and Jensen, J., 2013. Inter-annual and long-term mean sea level changes along the North Sea coastline.
Globally, mean sea levels are rising and there is concern that the rate of rise will accelerate throughout the 21st century significantly impacting growing coastal communities. Currently, most coastal management assessments are based on global mean sea level projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report. However, temporal and spatial variability of mean sea level change needs to be identified in order to establish an accurate projection of coastal management needs due to erosion and flooding associated with global sea level rise. This paper assesses historic changes in mean sea level from the beginning of the 19th century to present using 30 long and high quality tide gauge records located around the coastline of the North Sea. The North Sea coast is one of the most densely populated coastlines in the world. It contains a significant proportion of Europe's coastal flood risk as exemplified by London, Amsterdam and Hamburg, and the other extensive lowlands, and has a long history of significant coastal flooding. Previous analyses of mean sea level changes along Europe's coastlines have tended to be conducted at a national level, using a variety of different methods and sea level records of different quality and length. This study has three main objectives: (1) to examine the inter-annual variations observed in mean sea level across the North Sea region; (2) to examine linear and non-linear longer-term trends in relative and absolute mean sea level from the beginning of the 19th century to present; and (3) to assess whether 19 years of altimetry data provide valuable information on the spatial patterns of sea level trends and inter-annual variability in the North Sea.