eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1952
Earth Science cover
Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences
ISSN 1736-7557 (Electronic)
ISSN 1736-4728 (Print)
Impact Factor (2020): 0.789

Long-term storminess and sea level variations on the Estonian coast of the Baltic Sea in relation to large-scale atmospheric circulation; pp. 73–92

Full article in PDF format | 10.3176/earth.2013.07

Jaak Jaagus, Ülo Suursaar


Variations and trends in storminess (number of storm days), and mean and maximum sea levels were analysed along the Estonian coast during the last century. An increase in storminess was detected at the Vilsandi and Sõrve stations, although inhomogeneities in the wind data make the trends less reliable. Mean sea level trends depend on the post-glacial isostatic land uplift, which is different in different parts of Estonia. After eliminating the influence of the uplift, the estimated sea level rise was 2.2–3.2 mm yr–1 during 1950–2011, which was higher than the global mean (1.9 mm yr–1). The majority of increases in storminess and sea level have been observed during the cold half-year (November–March). An increase in annual maximum sea level has been much higher than in mean values, which indicates a strong increase in the flooding risk. Atmospheric circulation is closely related to the frequencies of storms and high sea level events, especially during the cold season. Variables describing the intensity of zonal circulation (westerlies), such as the Arctic oscillation and North Atlantic oscillation indices, and the frequency of the circulation form W according to the Vangengeim–Girs classification are highly correlated with storminess and sea level on the Estonian coast during 1950–2011. Negative correlations appeared in case of the circulation form E and the SCAND index.


Alexandersson, H., Schmith, T., Iden, K. & Tuomenvirta, H. 1998. Long-term variations of the storm climate over NW Europe. Global Atmosphere and Ocean System, 6, 97–120.

Andersson, H. C. 2002. Influence of long-term regional and large-scale atmospheric circulation on the Baltic Sea level. Tellus, 54A, 76–88.

Averkiev, A. S. & Klevannyy, K. A. 2010. A case study of the impact of cyclonic trajectories on sea-level extremes in the Gulf of Finland. Continental Shelf Research, 30, 707–714.

BACC. 2008. Assessment of Climate Change for the Baltic Sea Basin. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 473 pp.

Barnston, A. G. & Livezey, R. E. 1987. Classification, seasonality and persistence of low-frequency atmospheric circulation patterns. Monthly Weather Review, 115, 1083–1126.

Bärring, L. & Fortuniak, K. 2009. Multi-indices analysis of southern Scandinavian storminess 1780–2005 and links to interdecadal variations in the NW Europe–North Sea region. International Journal of Climatology, 29, 373–384.

Bärring, L. & von Storch, H. 2004. Scandinavian storminess since about 1800. Geophysical Research Letters, 31, L20202.

Bogdanov, V. I., Medvedev, M. Yu., Solodov, V. A., Trapeznikov, Yu. A., Troshkov, G. A. & Trubitsina, A. A. 2000. Mean Monthly Series of Sea Level Observations (1777–1993) at the Kronstadt Gauge. Reports of the Finnish Geodetic Institute 2000 : 1, Kirkkonummi, Finland, 34 pp.

Church, J. A. & White, N. J. 2006. A 20th century acceleration in global sea level rise. Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L01602.

Church, J. A. & White, N. J. 2011. Sea-level rise from the late 19th to the early 21st century. Surveys in Geophysics, 32, 585–602.

Dailidiene, I., Davuliene, L., Tilickis, B., Stankevicius, A. & Myrberg, K. 2006. Sea level variability at the Lithuanian coast of the Baltic Sea. Boreal Environment Research, 11, 109–121.

Donat, M. G., Leckebusch, G. C., Pinto, J. G. & Ulbrich, U. 2010. European storminess and associated circulation weather types: future changes deduced from a multi-model ensemble of GCM simulations. Climate Research, 42, 27–43.

Ekman, M. 1999. Climate changes detected through the world’s longest sea level series. Global and Planetary Change, 21, 215–224.

Emery, K. O. & Aubrey, D. G. 1991. Sea Levels, Land Levels, and Tide Gauges. Springer-Verlag, New York, 237 pp.

Eronen, M., Glückert, G., Hatakka, L., van de Plassche, O., van der Plicht, J. & Rantala, P. 2001. Rates of Holocene isostatic uplift and relative sea-level lowering of the Baltic in SW Finland based on studies of isolation contacts. Boreas, 30, 17–30.

Forsberg, R., Solheim, D. & Kaminskis, J. 1996. Geoid of the Nordic and Baltic area from gravimetry and satellite altimetry. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Gravity, Geoid and Marine Geodesy, pp. 540–548. Tokyo.

Gillett, N. P., Zwiers, F. W., Weaver, A. J. & Stott, P. A. 2003. Detection of human influence on sea-level pressure. Nature, 422, 292–294.

Gillett, N. P., Allan, R. J. & Ansell, T. J. 2005. Detection of external influence on sea level pressure with a multi-model ensemble. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L19714.

Gulev, S. K., Jung, T. & Ruprecht, E. 2002. Climatology and interannual variability in the intensity of synoptic-scale processes in the North Atlantic from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data. Journal of Climate, 15, 809–828.<0809:CAIVIT>2.0.CO;2

Houston, J. R. & Dean, R. G. 2011. Sea-level acceleration based on U.S. tide gauges and extensions of previous global-gauge analyses. Journal of Coastal Research, 27, 409–417.

Hoy, A., Jaagus, J., Sepp, M. & Matschullat, J. 2013. Spatial response of two European atmospheric circulation classifications (data 1901–2010). Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 112, 1–2, 73–88.

Hünicke, B. 2010. Contribution of regional climate drivers to future winter sea-level changes in the Baltic Sea estimated by statistical methods and simulations of climate models. International Journal of Earth Sciences, 99, 1721–1730.

Hünicke, B. & Zorita, E. 2006. Influence of temperature and precipitation on decadal Baltic Sea level variations in the 20th century. Tellus, 58A, 141–153.

Hurrell, J. W. 1995. Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science, 269, 676–679.

Hurrell, J. W. & Deser, C. 2010. North Atlantic climate variability: the role of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Marine Systems, 79, 231–244.

Hurrell, J. W. & van Loon, H. 1997. Decadal variations in climate associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Climatic Change, 36, 301–326.

Jaagus, J. 2006. Climatic changes in Estonia during the second half of the 20th century in relationship with changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 83, 77–88.

Jaagus, J. & Kull, A. 2011. Changes in surface wind directions in Estonia during 1966–2008 and their relationships with large-scale atmospheric circulation. Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences, 60, 220–231.

Jaagus, J., Post, P. & Tomingas, O. 2008. Changes in storminess on the western coast of Estonia in relation to large-scale atmospheric circulation. Climate Research, 36, 29–40.

Jevrejeva, S., Rüdja, A. & Mäkinen, J. 2001. Postglacial rebound in Fennoscandia: new results from Estonian tide gauges. In Gravity, Geoid and Geodynamics (Sideris, M., ed.), pp. 193–198. IAGSymposia 123, Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Jevrejeva, S., Moore, J. C., Grinsted, A. & Woodworth, P. L. 2008. Recent global sea level acceleration started over 200 years ago? Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L08715.

Johansson, M., Boman, H., Kahma, K. K. & Launiainen, J. 2001. Trends in sea level variability in the Baltic Sea. Boreal Environment Research, 6, 159–179.

Jones, P. D., Jónsson, T. & Wheeler, D. 1997. Extension to the North Atlantic Oscillation using early instrumental pressure observations from Gibraltar and South-West Iceland. International Journal of Climatology, 17, 1433–1450.<1433::AID-JOC203>3.0.CO;2-P

Keevallik, S. & Rajasalu, R. 2001. Winds on the 500 hPa isobaric level over Estonia (1953–1998). Physics and Chemistry of the Earth (B), 26, 425–429.

Kont, A., Endjärv, E., Jaagus, J., Lode, E., Orviku, K., Ratas, U., Rivis, R., Suursaar, Ü. & Tõnisson, H. 2007. Impact of climate change on Estonian coastal and inland wetlands – a summary with new results. Boreal Environment Research, 12, 653–671.

Lagemaa, P., Elken, J. & Kõuts, T. 2011. Operational sea level forecasting in Estonia. Estonian Journal of Engineering, 17, 301–331.

Lazarenko, N. N. 1986. Variations of mean level and water volume of the Baltic Sea. In Water Balance of the Baltic Sea (Falkenmark, M., ed.), Baltic Sea Environment Proceedings, 16, 64–80.

Li, J. & Wang, J. X. L. 2003. A new North Atlantic oscillation index and its variability. Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, 20, 661–676.

Matulla, C., Schöner, W., Alexandersson, H., von Storch, H. & Wang, X. L. 2008. European storminess: late nineteenth century to present. Climate Dynamics, 31, 125–130.

Orviku, K., Jaagus, J., Kont, A., Ratas, U. & Rivis, R. 2003. Increasing activity of coastal processes associated with climate change in Estonia. Journal of Coastal Research, 19, 364–375.

Paciorek, C. J., Risbey, J. S., Ventura, V. & Rosen, R. D. 2002. Multiple indices of Northern Hemisphere cyclone activity, winters 1949–99. Journal of Climate, 15, 1573–1590.<1573:MIONHC>2.0.CO;2

Pryor, S. C. & Barthelmie, R. J. 2003. Long-term trends in near-surfaces flow over the Baltic. International Journal of Climatology, 23, 271–289.

Raudsepp, U., Toompuu, A. & Kõuts, T. 1999. A stochastic model for the sea level in the Estonian coastal area. Journal of Marine Systems, 22, 69–87.

Sepp, M. 2009. Changes in frequency of Baltic Sea cyclones and their relationship with NAO and climate in Estonia. Boreal Environment Research, 14, 143–151.

Sepp, M. & Jaagus, J. 2002. Frequency of circulation patterns and air temperature variations in Europe. Boreal Environment Research, 7, 273–279.

Sepp, M., Post, P. & Jaagus, J. 2005. Long-term changes in the frequency of cyclones and their trajectories in Central and Northern Europe. Nordic Hydrology, 36, 297–309.

Serreze, M. C., Walsh, J. E., Chapin III, F. S., Osterkamp, T., Dyugerov, M., Romanovsky, V., Oechel, W. C., Morison, J., Zhang, T. & Barry, R. G. 2000. Observational evidence of recent change in the northern high-latitude environ­ment. Climatic Change, 46, 159–207.

Sildvee, H. 1998. Gravity measurements of Estonia. Reports of the Finnish Geodetic Institute, 98, 3.

Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K. B., Tignor, M. & Miller, H. L. (eds). 2007. Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York.

Suursaar, Ü. & Kullas, T. 2006. Influence of wind climate changes on the mean sea level and current regime in the coastal waters of west Estonia, Baltic Sea. Oceanologia, 48, 361–383.

Suursaar, Ü. & Sooäär, J. 2006. Storm surge induced by extra­tropical cyclone Gudrun: hydrodynamic reconstruction of the event, assessment of mitigation actions and analysis of future flood risks in Pärnu, Estonia. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 91, 241–250.

Suursaar, Ü. & Sooäär, J. 2007. Decadal variations in mean and extreme sea level values along the Estonian coast of the Baltic Sea. Tellus A, 59, 249–260.

Suursaar, Ü., Kullas, T. & Otsmann, M. 2002. A model study of sea level variations in the Gulf of Riga and the Väinameri Sea. Continental Shelf Research, 22, 2001–2019.

Suursaar, Ü., Kullas, T., Otsmann, M., Saaremäe, I., Kuik, J. & Merilain, M. 2006a. Hurricane Gudrun and modelling its hydrodynamic consequences in the Estonian coastal waters. Boreal Environment Research, 11, 143–159.

Suursaar, Ü., Jaagus, J. & Kullas, T. 2006b. Past and future changes in sea level near the Estonian coast in relation to changes in wind climate. Boreal Environment Research, 11, 123–142.

Suursaar, Ü., Jaagus, J. & Kullas, T. 2007. Recent tendencies in wind storm climatology with implications to storm surge statistics in Estonia. WIT Transactions on Engineering Science, 58, 41–50.

Thompson, D. W. & Wallace, J. M. 1998. The Arctic Oscillation signature in the wintertime geopotential height and temperature fields. Geophysical Research Letters, 25, 1297–1300.

Tõnisson, H., Orviku, K., Kont, A., Suursaar, Ü., Jaagus, J. & Rivis, R. 2007. Gravel-pebble shores on Saaremaa Island, Estonia, and their relationships to formation conditions. Journal of Coastal Research, SI50, 810–815.

Tõnisson, H., Suursaar, Ü., Orviku, K., Jaagus, J., Kont, A., Willis, D. A. & Rivis, R. 2011. Changes in coastal processes in relation to changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation, wave parameters and sea levels in Estonia. Journal of Coastal Research, SI64, 701–705.

Ulbrich, U. & Christoph, M. 1999. A shift of the NAO and increasing storm track activity over Europe due to anthro­pogenic greenhouse gas forcing. Climate Dynamics, 15, 551–559.

Vallner, L., Sildvee, H. & Torim, A. 1988. Recent crustal move­ments in Estonia. Journal of Geodynamics, 9, 215–223.

Vilibić, I. & Šepić, J. 2010. Long-term variability and trends of sea level storminess and extremes in European Seas. Global Planetary Change, 71, 1–12.

Wang, X. L., Swail, V. R. & Zwiers, F. W. 2006. Climatology and changes of extra-tropical storm tracks and cyclone activity: comparison of ERA-40 with NCEP/NCAR reanalysis for 1958–2001. Journal of Climate, 19, 3145–3166.

Watson, P. J. 2011. Is there evidence yet of acceleration in mean sea level rise around mainland Australia. Journal of Coastal Research, 27, 368–377.

Zhang, X., Walsh, J. E., Bhatt, U. S., Zhang, J. & Ikeda, M. 2004. Climatology and interannual variability of Arctic cyclone activity: 1948–2002. Journal of Climate, 17, 2300–2317.<2300:CAIVOA>2.0.CO;2


Back to Issue