The sea has been getting angrier. Waves and surf along the coast of California are getting taller and bigger owing to global warming, a recent study published this week shows. Heights of winter waves along the Golden State have reportedly risen by almost a foot since 1970. And surf of at least 13 feet tall is becoming more common off the coast as the climate gets warmer.
While this could be great news for the surfers, the more giant waves could result in additional flooding and erosion along the California coast, threatened by unforeseen sea-level rise. Waves ride on top of the sea level, which is rising owing to climate changes, explained Peter Bromirski, the study’s lead author, an expert oceanographer associated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography based in San Diego.
When sea levels become elevated further during the storms, more wave energy can touch sea cliffs, flood the low-lying regions, or even impair the coastal infrastructure. Damages from intense storms and massive surfs are playing out. In the past winter, California’s storms and giant waves collapsed bluffs and impaired the piers. Per the study, as the sea levels continue rising, even waves with a moderate height in the future are estimated to impact the coast with as much force as the bigger waves today, per report.
The researchers used 90 years of seismic data to measure the heights of past waves, creating an unexpected record of the waves that have pounded the coast of California over the past several decades. They found that average winter wave heights have expanded by approximately a foot since 1970, as global warming is believed to have accelerated. Swells, about 13 feet tall (at least), are becoming more frequent, occurring twice as often from 1996–2016 than from 1949–1969.
The study joins past research suggesting storm activities in the North Pacific Ocean have significantly increased under climate changes, per the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Gary Griggs, an Oceanographer associated with the University of California Santa Cruz, who wasn’t involved in the research, agreed, mentioning that the new research adds to the growing scientific data that reflects how fast the world has been warming up and how quickly the seas are rising.
Reference: BBC, USA Today, Yahoo
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