Oceanic wind speeds and wave heights have increased significantly over the last quarter of a century, according to a new study undertaken by Australian researchers.
Studies of climate change typically consider measurements or predictions of temperature over extended periods of time. However, this study examined global changes of oceanic wind speed and wave height, which are also important environmental indicators.
Ian Young – former Swinburne University vice-chancellor professor who earlier this month became vice-chancellor of the Australian National University – along with Swinburne oceanographers Alex Babanin and Stefan Zieger, authored the study.
‘Winds and waves control the flux of energy from the atmosphere to the ocean,’ says Young. ‘So, an understanding of whether their parameters are changing on a global scale is very important.’
In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed satellite data over a 23-year period from 1985 to 2008. The data showed that wind speeds over the majority of the world's oceans increased by 0.25% to 0.5% every year. For extremely high winds, speed increased by a yearly average of 0.75%.
The global increase in wave height was most significant for extreme waves, with the largest 1% increasing by an average of 0.5% every year. However, in some parts of the ocean, extreme waves increased by up to 1% every year.
The study was funded under an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, with sponsorship from MetOcean Engineers.
SOURCE: Swinburne University