Impact of sea level changes on future wave conditions along the coasts of western Europe

Chaigneau, Alisée A. ; Law-Chune, Stéphane ; Melet, Angélique ; Voldoire, Aurore ; Reffray, Guillaume ; Aouf, Lotfi

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Wind waves and swells are major drivers of coastal environment changes and coastal hazards such as coastal flooding and erosion. Wave characteristics are sensitive to changes in water depth in shallow and intermediate waters. However, wave models used for historical simulations and projections typically do not account for sea level changes whether from tides, storm surges, or long-term sea level rise. In this study, the sensitivity of projected changes in wave characteristics to the sea level changes is investigated along the Atlantic European coastline. For this purpose, a global wave model is dynamically downscaled over the northeastern Atlantic for the 1970-2100 period under the SSP5-8.5 climate change scenario. Twin experiments are performed with or without the inclusion of hourly sea level variations from regional 3D ocean simulations in the regional wave model. The largest impact of sea level changes on waves is located on the wide continental shelf where shallow-water dynamics prevail, especially in macro-tidal areas. For instance, in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in France, due to an average tidal range of 10 m, extreme historical wave heights were found to be up to 1 m higher (+30 %) when sea level variations are included. At the end of the 21st century, extreme significant wave heights are larger by up to +40 % (+60 cm), mainly due to the effect of tides and mean sea level rise. The estimates provided in this study only partially represent the processes responsible for the sea-level-wave non-linear interactions due to model limitations in terms of resolution and the processes included.</p>

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