Mid-twenty-first century global wave climate projections: Results from a dynamic CMIP5 based ensemble


Ocean surface gravity waves are part of the climate system, regulating the exchange of energy and momentum at the atmosphere-ocean interface. Besides that, waves have a direct impact on coastal erosion and sediment transport, in ship routing and offshore/ship infrastructure design, as well as in coastal management. Most future wave climate projections point out to statistically significant changes in wave height conditions in the global ocean towards the end of the 21st century. In the present study, the near future impact of a warmer climate on the global ocean wave climate towards the mid-21st century (2031–2060) is investigated through a 4-member “coherent” ensemble of wave climate projections: single-model (wave model WAM), single-forcing (EC-Earth) and single-scenario (RCP8.5). The wave model WAM was forced by wind speed and ice coverage from four Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) EC-Earth projections. The ensemble historic climate reference period has been evaluated by comparison against wave reanalysis/hindcast data, and wave in-situ observations. Statistically significant increases in the global mean wind speed, wave height, wave period and wave energy flux are to be expected towards the mid-twenty first century, in less than 50 years, these changes being more striking in the mid-to-high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. Due to the propagation of swell to lower latitudes, statistically significant increases in wave heights, periods and energy fluxes are also projected to occur in equatorial areas, especially along the eastern side of the main ocean basins, during the Austral winter. Comparatively, the projected changes in wave heights and energy fluxes are expected to occur more intensely during the first half of the 21st century, in several areas of the global ocean.
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