Wind extremes in the North Sea basin under climate change: an ensemble study of 12 CMIP5 GCMs
Coastal safety may be influenced by climate change, as changes in extreme surge levels and wave extremes may increase the vulnerability of dunes and other coastal defenses. In the North Sea, an area already prone to severe flooding, these high surge levels and waves are generated by low atmospheric pressure and severe wind speeds during storm events. As a result of the geometry of the North Sea, not only the maximum wind speed is relevant, but also wind direction. Climate change could change maximum wind conditions, with potentially negative effects for coastal safety. Here, we use an ensemble of 12 CMIP5 GCMs and diagnose the effect of two climate scenarios (rcp4.5 and rcp8.5) on annual maximum wind speed, wind speeds with lower return frequencies and the direction of these annual maximum wind speeds. The 12 selected CMIP5 models do not project changes in annual maximum wind speed and in wind speeds with lower return frequencies; however, we do find an indication that the annual extreme wind events are coming more often from western directions. Our results are in line with the studies based on CMIP3 models and do not confirm the statement based on some reanalysis studies that there is a climate-change related upward trend in storminess in the North Sea area.