Climate change leads to stronger ocean waves

The ocean waves are getting stronger as a result of climate change, which might pose dangers for coastal communities in the future, according to a latest study published in the scientific journal Nature.

Climate change leads to stronger ocean waves

Researchers found that ocean waves have increased in strength by 0.41 percent per year since 1948, and this change is correlated with the increasing sea-surface temperatures.

This relationship is important, as it shows that “global wave power can be a potentially valuable indicator of global warming, similarly to carbon dioxide concentration, the global sea level rise, or the global surface atmospheric temperature,” said director of research at the Environmental Hydraulics Institute at Spain’s University of Cantabria, and co-author of the new study, Inigo J. Losada.

While the study reveals a long-term trend of increasing wave energy, the effects of this increase are particularly apparent during the most energetic storm seasons, as occurred during the winter of 2013-2014 in the North Atlantic, which impacted the west coast of Europe, or the devastating 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean, which offered a harsh reminder of the destructive power and economic impacts of coastal storms, said the study.

Researchers hope the findings could provide a more complete understanding of the dangers faced by coastal communities in the coming decades.

“Our results indicate that risk analysis neglecting the changes in ocean waves power and having sea level rise as the only driver may underestimate the consequences of climate change and result in insufficient or maladaptation,” said co-author Fernando J. Mendez, associate professor at the University of Cantabria.

The findings may alert governments to better protect populations and infrastructure such as ports and harbors by building coastal defenses.