Waves: the North Atlantic produces bigger waves than the Southern Ocean | Photo: Shutterstock

An automated buoy positioned between the United Kingdom and Iceland detected the highest-ever wave measured in the North Atlantic.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the new world record wave height of 62.3 feet (19 meters) was measured on February 4, 2013, in the aftermath of a powerful cold front which produced winds of up to 43.8 knots (50.4 miles per hour).

The new record is classified under the "highest significant wave height" designation, i.e., the average height of between 15 and 20 well-formed waves over a period of about 10 minutes.

"The remarkable record highlights the importance of meteorological and ocean observations and forecasts to ensure the safety of the global maritime industry and to protect the lives of crew and passengers on busy shipping lanes," notes Wenjian Zhang, the assistant secretary-general of WMO.

Meteorologists and oceanographers say that wave height records occur due to an extraordinary combination of wind circulation patterns and atmospheric pressures which produce extra-tropical cyclones.

The most affected area is the one that goes from the Grand Banks underwater plateaus off the Canadian coast around Newfoundland to the south of Iceland, and the west coast of the United Kingdom, including the Rockall Trough.

"We need high-quality and extensive ocean records to help in our understanding of weather/ocean interactions. Despite the huge strides in satellite technology, the sustained observations and data records from moored and drifting buoys and ships still play a major role in this respect," adds Zhang.

The previous record was set on December 8, 2007, when the North Atlantic buoy measured a significant wave height of 59.96 feet (18.275 meters).

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