Copernicus Marine Service Ocean State Report, Issue 5 : Climatology and 2019 anomaly of maximum waves in the Mediterranean and Black Seas


There is general consensus that high-quality predictions of extreme events during marine storms can substantially contribute to avoiding or minimising human and material damage, especially in busy waterways such as the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Reliable wave forecasts and hindcasts, together with long-term statistical analysis of extreme conditions, are then of utmost importance for monitoring marine areas. So far, however, the wave climate characterisation (average and anomaly relative to the average) has focused on the bulk characterisation of the significant wave height Hs, and it has lacked a description of the individual waves, such as the maximum ones that may occur at a given location in the sea. To fill this gap, in this section, we provide the intensity and geographical distribution of the maximum waves in the Mediterranean and Black Seas over 27 years (1993–2019), by representing the average annual (1993–2018) and anomaly for 2019 relative to the average of the 99th percentile of the expected maximum wave height Hm and crest height Cm. The analysis combines wave model hindcasts available through CMEMS model setup and the wave model WAVEWATCH III®, both forced with ECMWF ERA5 reanalysis winds. Results show that in 2019 maximum waves were smaller than usual in the Black Sea (anomalies of Hm up to −1.5 m), while in the Mediterranean Sea a markedly positive anomaly (+2.5 m for Hm) was found in the southern part of the basin. The peculiar 2019 configuration seems to be caused by a widespread atmospheric stability over the Black Sea and by depressions that rapidly passed over the Mediterranean Sea.
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