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Ocean Warming effect on Surface Gravity Wave Climate Change for the end of the 21st Century

March 11th, 2013

Key Findings

  • Robust seasonal mean wind speeds (WSP) and significant wave height (SWH) changes include a moderate increase in the Southern Ocean during the austral summer and winter, due to the pole-ward shift of the jet stream.
  • A dipole pattern is seen in the North Atlantic, with increases in the northeast sector and decreases at the mid-latitude during the boreal winter, due to the more frequent occurrence of the positive phases of North Atlantic Oscillation.
  • Changes of the 99th percentile WSP and SWH are twice as strong as changes in the seasonal mean fields, and mainly dominated by changes in tropical storms.
  • Robust strong decreases of WSP and SWH in the South Pacific are obtained due to the large hurricane frequency decrease, while the results in the Northern Hemisphere basins differ among the models.

Yalin Fan, Isaac M. Held, Shian-Jiann Lin, and Xiaolan Wang. Journal: Journal of Climate. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00410.1


Future changes in wind-wave patterns have broad implications for ecosystems, as well as the design and operation of coastal, near-and-off-shore industries. Changes in response to global warming may further exacerbate the anticipated vulnerabilities of coastal regions to projected sea-level rise.

This research investigated surface wind and wave response to global warming, using the GFDL coupled atmosphere-wave model (HiRAM, coupled to WAVEWATCH III). Sea surface temperatures were perturbed using projections for climate late in the 21st century, generated by coupled models for the IPCC – Assessment Report 4 (A1B scenario).

Change in the global wind-wave climate is one of the main drivers, in the assessment of the effects of climate change on coastal erosion and risks to coastal population and ecosystems, as recognized by the IPCC Working Group II (Nicholls, et al. 2007). The goal of this study was to provide global dynamic wave projections for the remainder of this century.