Waves generated by the wind blowing over the surface of the ocean are able to travel immense distances and reach distant coasts. For example, it has been recognised since the 1950s that the coasts of California receive waves generated in the Southern Ocean. This means the wave climate of a given region can be very complex, having waves generated by local winds but also from many remote places at once (multiple swell fields).

In this study, CLEX researchers present a new method to examine seasonal variations in the global wave climate that accounts for the full directional wave spectra and includes wave systems with different frequencies and directions separately. This is in contrast to using integrated wave parameters, such as significant wave height or mean direction to examine these variations.

The results show how low‐frequency swell waves spread across ocean basins from the high to low latitudes in both hemispheres, reveal higher‐frequency waves that are a product of the local winds, and the variation in the intensity of these signals throughout the year.

The researchers believe future wave studies can benefit from this approach, since a concise and yet more complete representation of the wave climate variability can be achieved.

  • Echevarria, E. R., Hemer, M. A., & Holbrook, N. J. ( 2019). Seasonal variability of the global spectral wind wave climate. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JC014620