Danish report outlines rising storm surge threat to Copenhagen

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish report outlines rising storm surge threat to Copenhagen
Storm surge on southern Zealand in October 2023. Copenhagen is at rising threat from the weather phenomenon, according to calculations by Danish authorities. Photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

A joint report from Denmark’s Coastal Authority and Meteorological Institute has concluded that the capital needs to take measures to protect itself against future storm floods.


The two Danish agencies have calculated how high sea levels could rise around Copenhagen in the worst possible storm surge events.

Present day and future climate scenarios were both considered in the calculations, the Danish Coastal Authority (Kystdirektoratet) said in a press statement.

The worst-case scenario storm surge which could currently hit Copenhagen would raise the maximum sea level by 2.9 and 3.9 metres, the report states.

Future rises in the general sea level caused by climate change give a potential maximum sea level during storm surges in Copenhagen of 4-5 metres over current levels by the year 2125. This does not take the effect of waves into account.

The calculations were published as part of a broader report on the need for coastal protection in the Danish capital.


“This report and its results are the first piece of the puzzle which will make up an overall preliminary investigation of storm flood protection in Copenhagen. It shows the physical maximum water levels that could occur in the Øresund, Køge Bay and the western part of the Baltic Sea during the worst imaginable storm surges,” Coastal Authority section leader Thorsten Piontkowitz said in the statement.

Storm surges are rises in sea levels that occur during severe storms, which produce strong winds that push the water towards shore. This can lead to flooding.

In October 2023, parts of southeastern Jutland were hit by storms which produced powerful storm surges described as the worst Denmark has seen for 100 years.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINER: What is a storm surge and why is Denmark experiencing a 'once a century event'?

“Climate change and rising sea levels will make future storm surges markedly bigger. Although the worst possible storm surges today need several coinciding extreme weather factors, the climate in future will give an increased risk of floods in Copenhagen,” Adrian Lema of the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) said in the statement.

An elected official from Copenhagen Municipality called the results of the report and prospects of five-metre storm surges in Copenhagen “scary”.

“This clearly shows what kind of forces we are up against,” head of Copenhagen Municipalityt’s infrastructure committee, Line Barfod, said in a municipality statement.

“We have long warned that we need external storm surge protection to protect the many people and valuable things in the capital's coastal municipalities,” she said.

Barfod welcomed the report from the Coastal Authority, saying “an absolutely crucial first step on the way to getting the necessary storm surge protection is that the many different actors agree on the precise risk we are facing."


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