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Source: Guardian News/YouTube
A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans reveals a startling increase in wave height during winters. From 1996 to 2016, events of extreme waves (those higher than 13 feet) doubled when compared to the period between 1949 to 1969. This phenomenon is linked to the Pacific Ocean growing stormier due to rising global temperatures, a trend that has significantly escalated since 1970.
Before the 1970s, California’s winter waves varied greatly in size, with periods of low wave activity and occasional extremes. However, the last five decades have seen a substantial shift: fewer low-activity periods and more frequent high extremes, resulting in generally bigger waves.
According to the study’s author, Peter Bromirski of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, this shift aligns with the overall acceleration of Global warming and an increase in Pacific storminess since 1970. Bromirski used a novel approach to track this shift, leveraging seismic records from the California coast dating back to the 1930s.
The Aleutian Low, a semi-permanent low-pressure system off Alaska’s coast, influences Pacific storms and has reportedly intensified since 1970. This suggests that increased storm activity is a primary driver of these larger waves.
However, the growth in wave size is not the sole concern. Rising sea levels worldwide add to the problem, amplifying the waves’ impact on the shoreline. In California alone, sea levels have risen by about 8 inches over the past century, a figure projected to increase significantly by the century’s end, depending on greenhouse gas emission controls.
As the climate continues to change, bringing intensified Pacific storms and rising sea levels, it’s crucial to consider these factors when planning for California’s coastal impacts. It seems that Climate change is not only warming our planet but also stirring up our oceans.
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