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Kiel Fjord

 Case study sites

Site description

Keywords: Fjord, Bay

Kiel Fjord site is an about 20km long and at the mouth up to 7km wide fjord at the Western Baltic sea. The inner part is up to 2.5km wide. It is open to the Baltic Sea in north-northeast direction. The outer fjord is characterized by sandy beaches and on the western border by sandy cliffs. Small villages have developed along the coast in the outer fjord. The local population was traditionally occupied in small scale fisheries but after industrialization the touristic business developed and displaced almost the whole traditional fishery. Today the villages are characterized by beach tourism and water sports activity including the business around it. The inner fjord is dominated by the City of Kiel, the capital of the German Federal State Schleswig-Holstein, with about 250,000 permanent residents. The center of the city is directly located at the waterfront and occupied with different ports and shipyards.
The typical wind climate is dominated by winds directed from south to north-northwest. Strong westerly winds lead to lower water levels, which can hinder the navigation. The wave climate during westerly winds is moderate and no thread to the eastern border of the fjord. North to south-easterly winds occur during the development of winter high pressure. In summertime strong northeast winds are seldom. Northeaster to north-northeaster winds can cause higher sea levels if they reach heavy storm to hurricane strength. Waves up to 3.5m have been measured and considered as typical during hurricane winds from north to northeast for the fjord mouth. Near the coast the waves measured are averagely around 1.5m in height. Inside the inner fjord the waves extreme events can reach approximately 1.0m of height (estimated).

Why was this area selected?

The Kiel Fjord region is a highly developed region on the Western Baltic coastline. It was affected by marine surges several times and, even if there are high standards of coastal protection in Germany, it has vulnerabilities due to the fact that high values are exposed to the water during summer season. Storm surges in the Western Baltic fulfill the criterion of floods with small probability but heavy impact to the prosperity of the region. In August 1989 a small scale low caused a storm surge, which had heavy impact to marinas in Wendtorf and Kiel as well to beach infrastructure.

Land, coastal and marine uses

Keywords: Residential use, Tourism, Marinas, Natural reserve, Agriculture, Industry

Schleswig-Holstein is a region which has a relatively low density in population. Although only the cities, like Kiel, are populated in high densities, there are only a few areas where nature is not affected by anthropogenic influence. The shore is used by touristic and naval activities. Other recreational activities and industrial uses are present in the hinterland. There is a natural reserve in the outer fjord, the bird refuge “Bottsand”, which is lying in immediate neighborhood to the Wendtorf marina and is acting as a natural protection structure for the port. Most of the hinterland is used by agriculture as farmlands and grasslands. The eastern part of Kiel city is characterized by industrial activities. The Kiel Fjord is used as a starting point by large regular ferries to Scandinavia, as well as cruising ships. Some small fishery vessels are still in use at the smaller villages of the outer fjord, but they have no significant influence to the economic life.


Keywords: Marine flood, Erosion

Northeasterly storm events with hurricane strength are the most important threads to the coast of Kiel Fjord region and to the population located nearby the waterfront. These extreme events can affect the touristic activities, the infrastructures along the coast and the private properties (sailing & recreational boats, etc.). Typically, flooding is caused by the wind setup during the storm or a back swinging seiche or a combination of both effects. The storm surge event, which occurred in August 1989, was forced by a small scale storm. The low atmospheric pressure system was generated in northern France and then gain strength very fast, moving to northern Germany. The peak wind speeds reached hurricane strength directed from north to northeast. The aforementioned phenomena set up the peak water level to 1.7m above mean sea level, which is an extremely unusual value for the summer season. In addition, the northeast and north winds induced waves which presented significant wave height in a range between 1.5 to 2.0m. For some places, like the Wendtorf marine, those waves induced additional risk because the available protecting structures cannot keep this range of phenomena completely out of the marine basin.

Socio-Economic losses & Environmental Impacts

Keywords: Infrastructure and property damage, Loss of beach, Loss of habitat

The extreme events of storm surges affect significantly the coastal infrastructures used in the area of interest, mainly regarding the marinas’ establishment and equipment (wooden and electric parts). These phenomena can also cause significant damages on boats and yachts, both externally and internally. The intensity of the events can produce significant private and public costs from the destruction of camping sites, caravans, cars, beach equipment, etc. The 1989 event caused direct damages of approximately 25,000,000€, as well as additional indirect economic losses. Moreover, coastal erosion takes place during every storm surge event, sometimes influencing coastal infrastructure in the affected areas. Additionally, beaches have to be nourished regularly, when the have lost significant volumes of sand. Nevertheless, in Germany coastal erosion is taken as a natural process, which should be controlled only in cases, where high economic interests are associated with the maintenance of the shoreline. In natural reserves the dynamics of sediment transport are considered part of the natural system, but this can lead to situations where the natural reserves cannot fulfill their purpose due to irreversible changes to the ecosystem after a flooding, if the area is too small.

Partner in charge

Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute

Members of the project’s end-users and stakeholders board

Schleswig-Holstein gov’t (marina owner)


For further information please download the factsheet (.pdf in English)


Photo Gallery

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Kiel Fjord 1

Fig.1: Bridge with berths at Kiel Fjord. (source: Guntram Seiß).

Kiel Fjord 2

Fig.2: Overstressed mooring after a light surge event in winter 2015. (source: Guntram Seiß).

Kiel Fjord 3

Fig.3: Bridge flooded during a winter flood event 2012. (source: P. Mühlenhardt, Sporthafen Kiel GmbH).