Abstract. A new procedure for the identification of storm surge situations for the German Bight is developed and applied to reanalysis and global climate model data. This method is based on the empirical approach for estimating storm surge heights using information about wind speed and wind direction. Here, we hypothesize that storm surge events are caused by high wind speeds from north-westerly direction in combination with a large-scale wind storm event affecting the North Sea region. The method is calibrated for ERA-40 data, using the data from the storm surge atlas for Cuxhaven. It is shown that using information of both wind speed and direction as well as large-scale wind storm events improves the identification of storm surge events. To estimate possible future changes of potential storm surge events, we apply the new identification approach to an ensemble of three transient climate change simulations performed with the ECHAM5/MPIOM model under A1B greenhouse gas scenario forcing. We find an increase in the total number of potential storm surge events of about 12 % [(2001–2100)–(1901–2000)], mainly based on changes of moderate events. Yearly numbers of storm surge relevant events show high interannual and decadal variability and only one of three simulations shows a statistical significant increase in the yearly number of potential storm surge events between 1900 and 2100. However, no changes in the maximum intensity and duration of all potential events is determined. Extreme value statistic analysis confirms no frequency change of the most severe events.