Ocean Waves And Winds Getting Taller And Stronger, Study Finds

Researchers found that extreme waves increased by 5 percent or 30 centimeters in the last 30 years. The largest rise was found to be in the Southern Ocean.   ( Patrick Neufelder | Pixabay )

Ocean winds and waves are increasing all around the world, say authors of a new study. This is according to 30 years' worth of data with about 4 billion observations.

How does this affect the planet?

Extreme Ocean Winds And Waves

Researchers from the University of Melbourne analyzed wind speed and wave height data taken by 31 satellites from 1985 to 2018, and compared them with the data from over 80 ocean buoys deployed worldwide to determine the wind speed and ocean wave height trends in the last 33 years.

The amount of data they covered makes their research the largest and most detailed of its kind, and what they found is that extreme ocean winds have been increasing in the past 30 years, and that ocean waves have been growing taller, too.

Specifically, the extreme winds in the Southern Ocean increased by 8 percent or 1.5 meters per second, while extreme waves increased by 5 percent or 30 centimeters.

Environmental Impacts

According to the researchers, while the numbers do not seem like a lot, it may have significant impacts on infrastructure and sea-level change. It increases the incidences of coastal flooding, and flooding from storm surges may become more frequent and severe.

What’s more, they observed that the strongest increases occurred in the Southern Ocean, the swells from which determines the stability of the beaches in the Southern Hemisphere. Furthermore, the swells in the Southern Ocean are significant in the climates of the South Pacific, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, which means that such extreme changes in the South Pacific have an impact that can be experienced, not just in the region, but all over the world.

“These changes have impacts that are felt all over the world. Storm waves can increase coastal erosion, putting costal settlements and infrastructure at risk,” said Professor Ian Young, coauthor of the study. “We need a better understanding of how much of this change is due to long-term climate change, and how much is due to multi-decadal fluctuations, or cycles.”

The research is published in the journal Science.

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