Raising sea levels sets coastal areas in the forefront of climate change impacts, but new studies show that they also face other climate-related threats. In a study published January 14 Nature CommunicationsResearchers have reported that ocean wave energy is growing globally, and they have discovered a direct link between ocean warming and rising wave energy.
A wide range of long-term trends and projections carries climatic changes, including rising sea levels, increasing global temperatures, and reducing sea ice. Global Sea Climate Analysis has so far identified an increase in wind speed and wavelengths in localized parts of the ocean in the high latitudes of both hemispheres. These increases were higher for most extreme values (eg winter waves) than for mean values. However, the global signal of change and correlation between localized increase in wave height and global warming remained undetected.
The new study focuses on the energy that is found in ocean waves, which is transmitted from the wind and transforms into wave motion. This metric, called wave power, is growing in direct contact with the historical warming of the ocean surface. The ocean's upper warming, measured as a rising trend of sea surface temperatures, has influenced global wind patterns, which, in turn, makes the oceans stronger.
"For the first time, we have identified the global signal of global warming impacts in the wave climate, which is, in fact, the global wave of global warming by 0.4 percent per annum since 1948. This increase is correlated with rising sea surface temperatures globally, as well as in the oceanic regions, "said principal author Borja G. Reguero, a researcher at the Institute of Maritime Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Climate change changes the ocean in various ways, including changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation and water heating, says co-author Inigo J. Losada, research director at the Institute of Environmental Hydraulics at Cantabria University (IHCantabria), where the study was developed.
"This study shows that global wave power can be a potentially valuable indicator of global warming, similar to carbon dioxide concentration, global sea level rise, or global atmospheric temperature," said Losada.
Understanding how ocean wave energy reacts to ocean warming has important consequences for coastal communities, including infrastructure impact forecasts, coastal cities and small island states. Ocean waves determine where people build infrastructure such as ports and ports, or require protection through coastal defenses such as shuttles and dredges. Indeed, wave action is one of the main drivers of coastal change and flooding, and as wave energy increases, its effects can become deeper. The rise in sea levels will further aggravate these effects by allowing more energy to reach the shore.
Although the research has revealed a long-term trend of waves, the effects of this increase are particularly evident during the most severe seasons of the storm, as occurred during the winter of 2013-14 in the North Atlantic, affecting the western coast of Europe. , or a devastating 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean, which offered a sharp reminder of the devastating power and economic effects of coastal storms.
The effects of climate change will be particularly visible on the coast where people and oceans meet, according to co-author Fernando J. Méndez, associate professor at the Universidad de Cantabria. "Our findings show that risk analysis ignores changes in wave power and rising sea levels as the only driver can underestimate the consequences of climate change and result in insufficient or poor adaptation," he said.
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