In the new study, published today in Nature Climate Change1, the researchers projected wave attributes for the next century using five independent wave-climate models. They adjusted parameters in the models for predicted changes in the global climate, such sea surface temperatures, following the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The study concluded that wave heights will increase in areas such as parts of Indonesia, the Southern Ocean and Australia’s east coast, following shifts in the southern annular mode — a ring of climate variability that encircles the South Pole — and a strengthening of westerly winds in the Southern Ocean.
The researchers also predict a decrease in wave height for more than one-quarter of the world’s oceans, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. The cause may be a northward shift of Pacific high pressure.
Calmer seas in the North Atlantic will make major shipping routes safer, says study co-author Nobuhito Mori, a wave dynamics researcher at Kyoto University in Japan, and will also give deep-sea fishermen a reason to cheer — the industry requires wave heights to be smaller than 2–5 metres, depending on the size of the boat.