Big Waves Off California Increasing as Earth Warms, New Research Shows

According to recent research, winter waves off the Pacific coast of California are growing larger as a result of global warming.

A ground-breaking new study that followed the height of waves over the past 90 years discovered that as the planet warms, waves are getting bigger and the frequency of surf at least 13 feet (almost 4 meters) higher off the coastline of California is increasing.

Oceanographer Peter Bromirski of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography used the unusual method of analyzing seismic data dating all the way back to 1931 to determine the change in wave height.

The energy ripple that is created when waves ricochet off the shore and clash with oncoming waves can be detected by seismographs, which are used to detect earthquakes. With collision, the wave’s height rises.

However, the data along the California coast only goes back to 1980.

It was nearly hard to conduct that comparison with any degree of certainty “until I stumbled upon this data set,” according to Bromirski.

In order to go further back, Bromirski gathered a team of college students to investigate daily seismic recordings spanning decades of winters. Years were invested in a time-consuming, tedious process that called for scanning drums of documents on paper. But he stressed the need of comprehending how life has changed along California’s coast during the previous almost century.

They discovered that since 1970, when global warming is thought to have started accelerating, average winter wave heights have increased by as much as a foot. At least twice as many swells at least 13 feet tall (approximately 4 meters) occurred between 1996 and 2016 than did so between 1949 and 1969.

Bromirski was likewise taken aback to discover prolonged intervals of incredibly low wave heights.

We are experiencing erosion, coastal flooding, and harm to coastal infrastructure more often than in the past, according to Bromirski. And greater waves, when combined with sea level rise, indicate that will occur more frequently.

Wave changes can also be seen in various ways.

According to Bromirski, there have been nearly twice as many large wave incidents since 1970 than there were before.

The study, which was published on Tuesday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, offers additional evidence of the importance of the changes in the world’s oceans brought on by climate change. Other studies have shown that waves are getting bigger and stronger.
Powerful storms and massive seas are already having an impact.
California saw powerful storms and large waves this winter that destroyed piers, damaged cliffs, and flooded parts of the state’s picturesque Highway 1.

That, in Bromirski’s opinion, is a portent for things to come. According to some scientists, global warming may be accelerating and resulting in ever-stronger waves.

As sea levels rise and storms get more powerful he predicted that bigger waves will exacerbate flooding in coastal areas, rip up beaches, trigger landslides, and destabilize current cliffs.

The California coast, where sea cliffs have just started to fall and have devastated homes, is where these issues are most worrying. Forecasts indicate that by the final decade of the twenty-first century, even modest waves may result in damage comparable to that brought on by significant weather events.

Although a jump of a foot in wave height over a period of more than 50 years is not very significant, oceanographer Gary Griggs of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the results are in line with what experts already know is occurring to the world’s oceans as they warm: Due to more severe storms, they are become more powerful and inflicting devastation along the coast.

The research, according to Griggs, who was not engaged in it, adds to the body of evidence demonstrating how quickly the world is warming up and how quickly sea levels are rising.

“We are aware that hurricanes are more potent and persistent, and the waves are currently increasing stronger. So those are all consistent, he said. “The difficulty is sort of knowing how to really react to that.”

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