Projection of Global Wave Climate Change toward the End of the Twenty-First Century


Wind-generated waves at the sea surface are of outstanding importance for both their practical relevance in many aspects, such as coastal erosion, protection, or safety of navigation, and for their scientific relevance in modifying fluxes at the air–sea interface. So far, long-term changes in ocean wave climate have been studied mostly from a regional perspective with global dynamical studies emerging only recently. Here a global wave climate study is presented, in which a global wave model [Wave Ocean Model (WAM)] is driven by atmospheric forcing from a global climate model (ECHAM5) for present-day and potential future climate conditions represented by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) A1B emission scenario. It is found that changes in mean and extreme wave climate toward the end of the twenty-first century are small to moderate, with the largest signals being a poleward shift in the annual mean and extreme significant wave heights in the midlatitudes of both hemispheres, more pronounced in the Southern Hemisphere and most likely associated with a corresponding shift in midlatitude storm tracks. These changes are broadly consistent with results from the few studies available so far. The projected changes in the mean wave periods, associated with the changes in the wave climate in the middle to high latitudes, are also shown, revealing a moderate increase in the equatorial eastern side of the ocean basins. This study presents a step forward toward a larger ensemble of global wave climate projections required to better assess robustness and uncertainty of potential future wave climate change.
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