Global warming increases wave power, study finds

Ocean wave energy has been growing globally, with a direct association between sea warming and increased wave energy.

It is the conclusion of a new study published in ‘Nature Communications’, – with the participation of the University of Cantabria – which warns of these aggravating effects of the rise in sea level in coastal areas.

A wide range of long-term trends and projections carry the fingerprint of climate change, including rising sea levels, rising global temperatures and decreasing sea ice.

The analyzes of the global marine climate until now have identified increases in the wind speed and the height of the waves in localized areas of the ocean in the high latitudes of both hemispheres. These increases have been greater for the more extreme values ​​than for the average conditions. However, a global signal of change and a correlation between localized increases in wave heights and global warming had not been detected.

The new study focused on the energy contained in ocean waves, which is transmitted from the wind and transformed into wave motion. This metric, called wave power, has increased in direct association with the historical warming of the ocean’s surface.

The warming of the upper ocean, measured as a rising trend in sea surface temperatures, has influenced global wind patterns, and this, in turn, is making ocean waves stronger.

Climate change is changing the oceans in different ways, including changes in ocean-atmosphere circulation and water heating, according to co-author Iñigo J. Losada, director of research at the Institute of Environmental Hydraulics at the University of Cantabria (IHCantabria) , where the study was conducted.