Giving Compass' Take:
- Hurricane waves have increased significantly in size in the last four decades, severely impacting Mexico, the United States, and Caribbean countries.
- What are the implications of this research for the future of coastlines? How can coastal cities better prepare for climate change, and where can donors help?
- Read why coastal cities need to start planning for sea level rise.
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Mexico, the United States and Caribbean countries are being pummeled by hurricane waves that have increased in size by 80 percent over the past four decades, according to a first-of-its-kind global trend study led by China’s Hohai University.
The researchers looked at long-term differences in the surface area and height of tropical cyclone waves on the ocean’s surface globally since 1979, a press release from the University of Reading said.
The research team discovered that the coverage area of North Atlantic Ocean waves generated by hurricanes grew by almost 20 percent — around 64,479 square miles, approximately the size of Florida — each decade.
“The rapid growth of tropical cyclone waves over recent decades is extremely worrying given their immense danger to communities, businesses and ecosystems. Our results show that the threat from their waves is escalating fast across the globe,” said co-author of the study Dr. Xiangbo Feng, a tropical storm expert with the University of Reading, in the press release.
Hurricane waves worldwide increased in area by six percent each decade from 1979 to 2022, while their maximum height went up by three percent.
“Hurricanes whip up huge, devastating waves over that quickly swamp coastlines. Their long, rolling swells also travel hundreds of miles, flooding distant areas, so coastal towns and vessels urgently need to prepare better defences — especially in the Americas — to avoid damage from these extreme waves,” Feng added.
As hurricanes move through the warm ocean waters of tropical regions, strong winds at the center of the storm stir up enormous waves. The biggest ocean wave height generated by a tropical cyclone — caused by the West Pacific’s Typhoon Krosa in 2007 — had a mean height of 78.74 feet. The figure is calculated by taking the average trough to crest measurements of the highest one-third of waves.
The study, “Global increase in tropical cyclone ocean surface waves,” was published in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers also found that tropical cyclones’ total wave energy has gone up by nine percent worldwide each decade, the press release said. The biggest increase — 30 percent per decade — occurred in the North Atlantic and East Pacific.
Read the full article about hurricane waves by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes at EcoWatch.