Climate change, more extreme weather, bigger and longer swells, epic surfing conditions? A report by Nature magazine points towards this being the case, at least down under, where waves are set to be higher. However, this may not be the case elsewhere. In some surfing Paradises, erosion may put an end to the waves...
The report in Nature magazine by Becky Summers, January 13 2013 "Climate change may bring bigger waves for down under" points towards higher waves in Indonesia, Antarctica and the East Coast of Australia, based on research published in Nature Climate Change. In the research, an international group collaborated to study the effects of climate change on waves, sketching out the future for the fishing industry, coastal erosion and surfers.
The wave-climate models used in the research adjusted parameters to match the expected changes brought about by climate change over the next century using the inputs predicted in the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was found that the waves will be higher in parts of Indonesia, East Australia and Antarctica/Southern Ocean. This is excellent news for surfers, creating epic surfing waves and conditions.
Not good news for the northern hemisphere, however, where wave heights are set to decrease. Bad for surfers but good for fishermen, because shipping routes will be safer and as a result of smaller waves, beach erosion should be less marked, according to the report.
However, other reports suggest that while larger swells may produce epic waves, climate change also means that weather conditions become more extreme, and the time between the extremes may become prolonged. Translation: epic waves at ever-decreasing intervals and longer periods of flat seas.
More bad news: as ocean levels rise, the distance between the crest of the wave and the ocean floor will be greater, affecting the way that waves build and break, affecting the contour and its characteristics. And an increased distance from the ocean floor may not bring good news at all. Big waves may not be great waves.