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Heat Makes Ocean Winds and Waves Fiercer

The seas are rising. Ocean winds and waves are growing in speed and force. The oceans could be feeling the heat.

Oceanic winds and waves are growing more powerful. (Image Credit: WestBoundary Photography chris gill on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.

The great swells of the Pacific are beginning to swell even more as fiercer ocean winds and waves leave their mark.  The breakers that crash on the storm beaches now do so with greater force.  The white horses are gathering pace.

A 33-year-study of data from 31 satellites and 80 ocean buoys has confirmed suspicions.  The extreme ocean winds are now fiercer, and the waves are getting measurably higher.

It is a given of global warming that as average planetary temperatures rise, then more energy is available for storm, rainfall and drought.

In the past century, because of ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels that release growing quantities of greenhouse gases, average global temperatures have crept higher by 1°C and in three decades the speed of extreme winds in the Southern Ocean has increased by 8%, or 1.5 meters per second.  Extreme waves have increased by 30cms, or 5%, over the same period.

“These changes have impacts that are felt all over the world.  Storm waves can increase coastal erosion, putting coastal settlements and infrastructures at risk”

“Although increases of 5 and 8% might not seem like much, if sustained into the future such changes to our climate will have major impacts,” said Ian Young, an engineer at the University of Melbourne in Australia

He and a colleague report in the journal Science that they reached their conclusion on the basis of 4 billion observations made between 1985 and 2018.

“Flooding events are caused by storm surge and associated breaking waves. The increased sea level makes these events more serious and more frequent,” said Professor Young. “Increases in wave height, and changes in other properties such as wave direction, will further increase the probability of coastal flooding.”

Sea levels have been creeping ever higher, in large part because of the retreat of most of the planet’s great glaciers and the ever-increasing meltwater from Greenland and West Antarctica, and also as a simple matter of physics: as the oceans warm, the waters become less dense and sea levels rise.

Read more at Heat Makes Ocean Winds and Waves Fiercer