Influence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation on Global Coastal Flooding

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Anomalous atmosphere-ocean conditions in the tropical Pacific associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drive interannual variations in mean and extreme sea levels. Climate change may lead to more frequent extreme ENSO events in the future. Therefore, it is important to enhance our understanding of ENSO's influence on coastal flood impacts. We assessed ENSO's influence on extreme sea levels using a global reanalysis of tides and storm surges. This allows for a full coverage of the global coastline from 1979 to 2014. A mean sea level component is added to account for steric effects. This results in a substantial improvement in the representation of the seasonal and interannual variability. Our results show significant correlations across the Pacific between ENSO and extreme sea levels (expressed as 95th annual percentiles), which is consistent with previous studies based on tide gauge observations. Average anomalies in the annual percentiles over El Niño years compared to neutral years show similar patterns. When examining total sea levels, results are largely statistically insignificant. This is because in many regions large tidal variability dominates over the other components. Combining sea levels with an inundation and impact model shows that ENSO has a significant but small effect on the number of people potentially exposed to flooding at the globally aggregated scale. Our results demonstrate that a model-based approach allows for an assessment of the influence of ENSO on coastal flood impacts and could be used to assess impacts of future changes in ENSO.

LanguageEnglish
Pages1311-1322
Number of pages12
JournalEarth's Future
Volume6
Issue number9
Early online date6 Sep 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Fingerprint

El Nino-Southern Oscillation
flooding
sea level
tide gauge
storm surge
El Nino
annual variation
tide
anomaly
climate change
atmosphere
coast
ocean

Keywords

  • climate variability
  • coastal flooding
  • ENSO
  • extreme sea levels
  • flood risk
  • global scale

Cite this

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title = "Influence of El Ni{\~n}o-Southern Oscillation on Global Coastal Flooding",
abstract = "Anomalous atmosphere-ocean conditions in the tropical Pacific associated with the El Ni{\~n}o-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drive interannual variations in mean and extreme sea levels. Climate change may lead to more frequent extreme ENSO events in the future. Therefore, it is important to enhance our understanding of ENSO's influence on coastal flood impacts. We assessed ENSO's influence on extreme sea levels using a global reanalysis of tides and storm surges. This allows for a full coverage of the global coastline from 1979 to 2014. A mean sea level component is added to account for steric effects. This results in a substantial improvement in the representation of the seasonal and interannual variability. Our results show significant correlations across the Pacific between ENSO and extreme sea levels (expressed as 95th annual percentiles), which is consistent with previous studies based on tide gauge observations. Average anomalies in the annual percentiles over El Ni{\~n}o years compared to neutral years show similar patterns. When examining total sea levels, results are largely statistically insignificant. This is because in many regions large tidal variability dominates over the other components. Combining sea levels with an inundation and impact model shows that ENSO has a significant but small effect on the number of people potentially exposed to flooding at the globally aggregated scale. Our results demonstrate that a model-based approach allows for an assessment of the influence of ENSO on coastal flood impacts and could be used to assess impacts of future changes in ENSO.",
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Influence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation on Global Coastal Flooding. / Muis, Sanne; Aerts, J.C.J.H.; Ward, P.J.; Guimaraes Nobre, G.G.N.; Haigh, I.D.

In: Earth's Future, Vol. 6, No. 9, 09.2018, p. 1311-1322.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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AU - Muis, Sanne

AU - Aerts, J.C.J.H.

AU - Ward, P.J.

AU - Guimaraes Nobre, G.G.N.

AU - Haigh, I.D.

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AB - Anomalous atmosphere-ocean conditions in the tropical Pacific associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drive interannual variations in mean and extreme sea levels. Climate change may lead to more frequent extreme ENSO events in the future. Therefore, it is important to enhance our understanding of ENSO's influence on coastal flood impacts. We assessed ENSO's influence on extreme sea levels using a global reanalysis of tides and storm surges. This allows for a full coverage of the global coastline from 1979 to 2014. A mean sea level component is added to account for steric effects. This results in a substantial improvement in the representation of the seasonal and interannual variability. Our results show significant correlations across the Pacific between ENSO and extreme sea levels (expressed as 95th annual percentiles), which is consistent with previous studies based on tide gauge observations. Average anomalies in the annual percentiles over El Niño years compared to neutral years show similar patterns. When examining total sea levels, results are largely statistically insignificant. This is because in many regions large tidal variability dominates over the other components. Combining sea levels with an inundation and impact model shows that ENSO has a significant but small effect on the number of people potentially exposed to flooding at the globally aggregated scale. Our results demonstrate that a model-based approach allows for an assessment of the influence of ENSO on coastal flood impacts and could be used to assess impacts of future changes in ENSO.

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