Presence and possible cause of periodicities in 20th-century extreme coastal surge: Belfast Harbour, Northern Ireland.

Julian Orford, Joanne Murdy

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Identifying 20th-century periodic coastal surge variation is strategic for the 21st-century coastal surge estimates, as surge periodicities may amplify/reduce future MSL enhanced surge forecasts. Extreme coastal surge data from Belfast Harbour (UK) tide gauges are available for 1901–2010 and provide the potential for decadal-plus periodic coastal surge analysis. Annual extreme surge-elevation distributions (sampled every 10-min) are analysed using PCA and cluster analysis to decompose variation within- and between-years to assess similarity of years in terms of Surge Climate Types, and to establish significance of any transitions in Type occurrence over time using non-parametric Markov analysis. Annual extreme surge variation is shown to be periodically organised across the 20th century. Extreme surge magnitude and distribution show a number of significant cyclonic induced multi-annual (2, 3, 5 & 6 years) cycles, as well as dominant multi-decadal (15–25 years) cycles of variation superimposed on an 80 year fluctuation in atmospheric–oceanic variation across the North Atlantic (relative to NAO/AMO interaction). The top 30 extreme surge events show some relationship with NAO per se, given that 80% are associated with westerly dominant atmospheric flows (+ NAO), but there are 20% of the events associated with blocking air massess (− NAO). Although 20% of the top 30 ranked positive surges occurred within the last twenty years, there is no unequivocal evidence of recent acceleration in extreme surge magnitude related to other than the scale of natural periodic variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-262
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Early online date08 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Extreme surge, Belfast tide gauge data, 20th-century, Periodic variation, NAO, AMO


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