Ocean warming increases global wave power

January 15, 2019 | Environment
Waves: they are getting bigger and more powerful | Photo: NOAA/Creative Commons

Wave power increased globally 0.47 percent per year since 1948.

According to a study published in "Nature Communication," ocean warming is affecting the behavior of waves at a planetary level.

Borja G. Reguero, an assistant researcher in the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues concluded that the wave energy transferred from the wind into the surface of the oceans increased 0.4 percent per year in the last 70 years.

The study combined satellite altimetry and model results to determine the global wave power.

Reguero and his team also concluded that the increase in wave power accelerated in the past two decades with a cumulative 2.3 percent increase, per year, since 1994.

Impact on Coastlines

The Southern Ocean - the world's most energetic basin - was the region which increased the most, followed the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The scientists found valid correlations between sea surface temperature and global wave power, meaning that the warmer the oceans, the bigger and more powerful the waves will be.

"Understanding how global wave power responses to oceanic warming has important implications for coastal adaptation, including anticipating impacts on infrastructure, coastal cities, and small islands," Borja Reguero notes.

"Because wave action is a key driver of coastal change and flooding, as wave energy increases, its effects can become more profound. Sea level rise will also allow more wave energy to reach shoreward, which will have aggravated consequences."

The study also stresses the importance of considering global wave power as "a long-term signal of climate change."

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