Research Finds Increasing Wave Heights, Up to 13 Feet, Along California's Coast as Earth Warms

The Daily Ping

New research from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reveals concerning trends in wave heights off California's coast. Oceanographer Peter Bromirski and his team used an innovative method, analyzing seismic records dating back to 1931, to track the increasing height of waves over the past 90 years.

By studying the seismic energy generated when waves collide with the shore, Bromirski and his team were able to measure the change in wave height. Their findings indicate that average winter wave heights have grown by as much as a foot since 1970, coinciding with the acceleration of global warming. In addition, swells at least 13 feet tall (about 4 meters) are now occurring more frequently, happening twice as often between 1996 and 2016 compared to the period from 1949 to 1969.

This escalation in wave size raises concerns about the impact of climate change on coastal communities. Erosion, coastal flooding, and damage to infrastructure are becoming more frequent occurrences. Combined with rising sea levels, the increased wave intensity poses a significant threat to vulnerable coastal areas.

The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, adds to the mounting evidence that climate change is causing significant shifts in the world's oceans. The growing scientific data indicates that the planet's oceans are becoming more violent due to more intense storms and higher wave energies.

Already, California has experienced damage from intense storms and giant waves, resulting in collapsed bluffs, damaged piers, and flooded areas along the picturesque Highway 1. This serves as a warning of potential future consequences as global warming accelerates, leading to even larger and more destructive waves.

Scientists predict that as sea levels rise and storms intensify, coastal communities will face more frequent flooding, beach erosion, landslides, and destabilization of cliffs. This is particularly concerning for the California coast, where sea cliffs have already started to crumble, causing the collapse of homes.

While a one-foot increase in wave height over 50 years may not seem significant, it aligns with broader trends in ocean behavior driven by climate change. The study emphasizes the urgency of responding to the challenges posed by these changes and underscores the need for proactive measures to safeguard coastal regions.

Oceanographer Gary Griggs from the University of California Santa Cruz commented on the study, noting that it adds to the growing body of evidence indicating the rapid warming of the planet and rising sea levels. As hurricanes intensify, and waves grow in power, coastal communities must grapple with how to effectively address these escalating threats.

The study's findings call for heightened awareness and collaborative efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change on coastal environments. As the world continues to grapple with the consequences of global warming, understanding and addressing the changing dynamics of ocean waves become vital steps in protecting our coastlines and communities for the future.

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