The increasing intensity of storms due to climate change is causing bigger waves in the ocean. A recent study published in the journal Nature found that the force of ocean waves interacting with the sea floor has been steadily increasing since the late 20th century. This increase in wave energy is attributed to rising global temperatures and increasing storminess.
The study found that the global average ocean wave energy has increased by 0.27 percent each year since the late 20th century. After 2000, this number jumped to 0.35 percent per year. The researchers used data from 52 seismograph sites around the world and found that 79 percent of them showed “highly significant and progressive increases in energy over the decades.”
The greatest overall microseism energy was found in the Southern Ocean regions near the Antarctica peninsula. However, the study found that North Atlantic waves have intensified the fastest in recent decades compared to historical levels. This is consistent with recent research suggesting that North Atlantic storm intensity and coastal hazards are increasing. For example, Storm Ciarán, which hit Europe with powerful waves and hurricane-force winds in November 2023, was one record-breaking example.
The study also examined the effects of El Niño and La Niña cycles on ocean waves and storms, as well as the winter storms between the two hemispheres. The shrinking Antarctic sea ice can have a dampening effect on these storms, and the long-range effects of El Niño and La Niña cycles on ocean waves and storms were also considered.
The increasing intensity of storms and waves due to climate change has significant implications for coastal communities and infrastructure. Coastal hazards such as landslides and erosion are expected to increase, and sea level rise will exacerbate these problems. Additionally, the increasing intensity of storms and waves will create challenges for wave energy and wind energy production.