Tuesday, February 09, 2010

West Coast Waves Getting Taller

According to this story (and picture) from the Victoria Times-Colonist, scientists from Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries using data from buoys that have been in place off the coast of Oregon since the 1970s have found that coastal wave heights are increasing at a rate of about 2.5cm a year, and storm waves by about 10cm a year. And it seems that the largest waves are showing the biggest increase; the highest waves might now reach 15 metres compared to 10 metres in 1996.
Obviously this news affects kayakers, but it also has has significant implications on design work of seawalls, breakwaters and jetties, and for homeowners along the coast.
But what about the west coast of Vancouver Island? According to the story:
Buoys off the coast of Vancouver Island have not collected such long-term data, but B.C. information was used in the study and scientists at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney also have concluded that waves are getting bigger.
Physical oceanographer Steve Mihaly said that in the northeast Pacific Ocean, wave size increases with latitude.
“The trend to slightly larger waves is stronger as you go north,” he said.
The big question, with no definitive answer, is why the waves are growing.
“While these increases are most likely due to the Earth’s changing climate, uncertainty remains as to whether they are the product of human-induced greenhouse warming or represent variations related to natural, multidecadal climate cycles,” the study says.
“And, as we go into the future and sea-level rise accelerates, this part of the country gets a double whammy,” said Peter Ruggiero, assistant professor in the university’s department of geosciences and one of the study’s authors.
Of course the good news is better kayak surfing. The bad news is my house on the hill may become beach front property in a couple of decades.

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