On December 6th 2013 the German coastline was hit by the extra tropical cyclone “Xaver”, which caused the highest water levels on record in some places. In the media, the resulting storm surge was quickly referred to as a “once in one hundred years” event or a “century storm surge”. Based on 12 tide gauges in the German Bight, we estimate return periods of the observed water levels during Xaver and find that they were much lower than 100 years. However, in some places Xaver caused increases in the 200-year return water level estimates, which are often used for the design of coastal defences in the region. This highlights the need to re-assess design levels periodically and especially after such extreme events.

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