Coastal Flooding & Solutions, Workshop Case Studies

Visualizing the climatology and extremes of coastal water levels

Location: Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS)

Submitted By: Matthew Widlansky - Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research, Associate Director at the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center

Project URLs:

Project Description

The Station Explorer web product provides a view of recent and past water levels, compared to the long-term climatology and records at tide gauge stations. Updates are available each month using the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) Fast-Delivery tide gauge data, which is operated by the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center (UHSLC). The visualization product seeks to inform how tide gauge observations relate to what is typical for the time of year, or to compare with extremes during past years. It was inspired by similar types of graphical displays of weather and climate extremes, such as heat waves, already widely available on the web. Station Explorer was made public in May 2020 after incorporating stakeholder input. The product allows users to explore daily and monthly extremes in hourly tide gauge data, as well as monthly mean values. Here, in a recorded presentation, we will highlight how the product is being used to better understand water-level extremes affecting the U.S. East Coast. For a sample of tide gauge locations, we will relate daily and monthly extremes to the astronomical tidal cycles, weather events, seasonality in the ocean variability, and year-to-year climate variations. Opportunities for improving the product will be discussed, such as by using satellite observations of sea surface height to relate tide gauge measurements to the regional conditions, or by indicating location-specific water level thresholds associated with coastal hazards.

Key Successes

1) Product launched in May 2020 after addressing stakeholder feedback from the first round of review. 2) Visualizations of recent tide gauge observations has aided “citizen scientist” initiatives to better interpret King Tide events.


1) Attributing weather and climate conditions to occurrence of extreme sea levels. 2) Providing skillful outlooks of future extreme sea levels.

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