Extreme Temperature Diary-May 1, 2019/ Are Ocean Waves Getting Higher Due To Climate Change?

Wednesday May 1st… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Are Ocean Waves Getting Higher Due To Climate Change?

Well, the title of today’s main topic is a new one, having not been considered for discussion on this site. Thermodynamically higher ocean waves due to a warmer climate make sense because they are frictional energy release mechanisms. Think about stronger ocean storms due to a warming planet. Higher winds due to stronger storms can blow across longer fetches of ocean, thus generating higher and more powerful waves. I’ve run across a few articles in the past ten years saying that higher ocean waves were breaking up polar ice faster, so this effect has positive feedbacks, increasing climate change. Obviously higher and more powerful waves would be detrimental to any ships worldwide. Today I will repost this NBC MACH news article indicating that a new study has been completed on climate change and ocean waves:


Strong winds are supersizing the ocean’s biggest waves

Amped-up winds and waves could aggravate the effects of climate change, adding destructive strength to storms already fueled by rising seas.


Waves slam a pier in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, as Hurricane Florence approaches the area on Sept. 13, 2018.Travis Long / The News & Observer via APApril 30, 2019, 4:28 AM ‎EDTBy Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky

Strong winds are driving the ocean’s biggest waves to dizzying new heights.

That’s the potentially ominous finding of new research that analyzed more than 30 years’ worth of global wind and wave measurements to see how they changed over time. The University of Melbourne researchers behind the work, published April 25 in the journal Science, say the supersized waves could compound the effects of rising sea levels, leading to more frequent flooding and accelerated coastal erosion.

“These changes will have impacts that are felt all over the world,” Ian Young, an engineering professor at the university and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

To study how the ocean’s winds and waves have changed, Young and another researcher at the university took a close look at data collected by 31 wind- and wave-measuring satellites launched into space by NASA, the European Space Agency and other organizations. The researchers compiled 4 billion measurements collected between 1985 and 2018 and checked them against data from 80 buoys floating in oceans around the world.

The numbers paint a picture of strong winds getting stronger and big waves getting bigger — particularly in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. Between 1985 and 2018, the fastest winds over the Southern Ocean became 8 percent faster, speeding up by about 3.4 miles per hour. Over the same time period, those winds drove the highest waves almost a foot — or five percent — higher.

Young acknowledged that the changes seemed small but said they were reason for concern nonetheless. “If sustained into the future, such changes to our climate will have major impacts,” he said in the statement. The Southern Ocean sets the pace for the South Pacific, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans — and, indeed, the scientists saw small upticks in wind speed and wave height as far up as the North Atlantic.

Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University in State College, said the findings aligned with his own research on climate change’s effects on the world’s oceans. He said warming oceans could be making storms — and the winds associated with them — more intense.

“There is the potential for more extreme winds associated with individual storms, and greater wave heights as a result,” he told NBC News MACH in an email.

Young said it was too early to decisively tie faster winds to the warming climate. He added that the increase in wind speeds could have been caused by cyclical variations in climate, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a temperature change in the Southern Pacific that occurs every two to seven years.

No matter what their cause, the amped-up winds and waves could aggravate the effects of climate change, adding destructive strength to storms already fueled by rising seas. If these powerhouses pummel the coasts, they’re more likely to cause coastal flooding and erosion. Offshore, they could imperil ships and help break apart melting ice sheets.

For Mann, the results fit into a larger story of climate-related extreme weather, including droughts, heat waves and floods, all with potentially disastrous results. “More extreme weather, wind speeds and wave heights of course place greater stress on our infrastructure and pose greater threats to property and life,” he said in the email.

Will ocean waves and winds continue to strengthen? No one knows for sure, but ongoing research by Young and his collaborator, University of Melbourne researcher Agustinus Ribal, might yield an answer. The scientists plan to use the 4 billion measurements they compiled to refine climate models so that they will be able to predict ocean waves going forward.

Additional reporting by David Freeman.


Speaking of winds, waves and storms:

Yes, just about every item in association with climate change is harmful to our civilization, stronger ocean waves being one more facet. Marine interests will need to adapt to bigger and more powerful waves, which I’m sure will tack on to the price we will all be paying for climate change both now and into the future.


Here is some more climate and weather news from Wednesday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)

Here is one ET from Wednesday:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton- “The Climate Guy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *