Extreme ocean winds and waves increasing in size and strength

Extreme ocean winds and wave heights are increasing around the world, researchers warn - and the worst of it is happening down under.

Professor Ian Young and Agustinus Ribal from the University of Melbourne conducted a study over 33 years by comparing information from satellites to data collected by a global network of ocean buoys.

Their analysis found extreme winds in the Southern Ocean have increased by 1.5 metres per second, or 8 percent, over the past 30 years. Extreme waves have increased by 30 centimetres, or 5 percent, over the same period.

The experts warn that this could be devastating to coastal communities.

"Although increases of 5 and 8 percent might not seem like much, if sustained into the future such changes to our climate will have major impacts," Prof Young said.

"Flooding events are caused by storm surge and associated breaking waves. The increased sea level makes these events more serious and more frequent.

"Increases in wave height, and changes in other properties such as wave direction, will further increase the probability of coastal flooding."


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