Modelling waves and surges during the 1953 storm

J Wolf, R.A Flather

Abstract

Waves and sea levels have been modelled for the storm of 31 January–1 February 1953. Problems in modelling this event are associated with the difficulty of reconstructing wind fields and validating the model results with the limited data available from 50 years ago. The reconstruction of appropriate wind fields for surge and wave models is examined. The surges and waves are reproduced reasonably well on the basis of tide-gauge observations and the sparse observational information on wave heights. The maximum surge coincided closely in time with tidal high water, producing very high water levels along the coasts of the southern North Sea. The statistics of the 1953 event and the likelihood of recurrence are also discussed. Both surge and wave components were estimated to be approximately 1 in 50 year events. The maximum water level also occurred when the offshore waves were close to their maximum. The estimation of return period for the total water level is more problematic and is dependent on location. A scenario with the 1953 storm occurring in 2075, accounting for the effects of sea level rise and land movements, is also constructed, suggesting that sea level relative to the land could be 0.4–0.5 m higher than in 1953 in the southern North Sea, assuming a rise in mean sea level of 0.4 m.

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Footnotes

  • Present address: Joseph Proudman Building, 6 Brownlow Street, Liverpool L3 5DA, UK.

  • One contribution of 14 to a Theme ‘The Big Flood: North Sea storm surge’.

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