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The study of the extreme values of a variable such as wave height is very important in flood risk assessment and coastal design. Often values above a sufficiently large threshold can be modelled using the Generalized Pareto Distribution, the parameters of which are estimated using maximum likelihood. There are several popular empirical techniques for choosing a suitable threshold, but these require the subjective interpretation of plots by the user. In this paper we present a pragmatic automated, simple and computationally inexpensive threshold selection method based on the distribution of the difference of parameter estimates when the threshold is changed, and apply it to a published rainfall and a new wave height data set. We assess the effect of the uncertainty associated with our threshold selection technique on return level estimation by using the bootstrap procedure. We illustrate the effectiveness of our methodology by a simulation study and compare it with the approach used in the JOINSEA software. In addition, we present an extension that allows the threshold selected to depend on the value of a covariate such as the cosine of wave direction. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Coastal Engineering

Publication Date





1013 - 1021