Weather News

Monster 23.8m-wave is largest ever recorded in southern hemisphere

Saturday May 12, 2018 - 08:36 EST
ABC licensed image
The solar-powered buoy is moored near New Zealand's Campbell Island. - ABC licensed

A wave-measuring buoy in the Southern Ocean has recorded a massive 23.8-metre wave, according to a New Zealand meteorology and oceanography consultancy.

"This is a very exciting event and to our knowledge it is the largest wave ever recorded in the southern hemisphere," MetOcean Solutions senior oceanographer Dr Tom Durrant said.

The mammoth wave, which formed during a storm, dwarfed the previous record of 19.4m measured by MetOcean Solutions in May 2017, as well as a wave recorded in Australian waters in 2012 that measured 22.03m.



The solar-powered buoy, moored near New Zealand's Campbell Island, only records wave heights for 20 minutes every three hours.

Because of this, Dr Durrant said it was "very probable" even larger waves could have occurred during this storm.

"It is likely that the peak heights during this storm were actually much higher, with individual waves greater than 25m being possible as the wave forecast for the storm show larger wave conditions just north of the buoy location," Dr Durrant said.

But storms such as this do not just affect coasts in the Southern Ocean.

"The persistent and energetic wind conditions here create enormous fetch for wave growth, making the Southern Ocean the engine room for generating swell waves that then propagate throughout the planet — indeed surfers in California can expect energy from this storm to arrive at their shores in about a weeks' time," Dr Durrant said.



"[This] storm is the perfect example of waves generated by the easterly passage of a deep low-pressure system with associated wind speeds exceeding 65 knots.

"Such storms are frequent and can occur at any time of the year, which differs from the high-latitude northern hemisphere storms that only occur in winter."

Dr Durrant said what makes this storm particularly interesting is that its speed appears to match the wave speed, which he says allows wave heights to grow dramatically.

Significant wave height is the value used by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to characterise sea state, MetOcean Solutions said.

"During this storm, the significant wave height reached 14.9m. This is also a record for the Southern Ocean, but falls short of the 19m world record buoy measurement that was recorded in the North Atlantic during 2013."


- ABC

© ABC 2018

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
National Nine News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Heatwave update: Temperatures are expected to peak over the coming days

16:45 EDT

Tennis players are sweating, toxic ozone warnings are out for Sydney and fruit is cooking on the branches.

Emergency warning for fire burning in central Tasmania, as lightning storms spark blazes across state

16:11 EDT

An emergency warning has been issued for a "highly active and unpredictable" bushfire burning in central Tasmania.

BOM forecasts 47C in outback NSW as heatwave sparks ozone gas warning in Sydney's west

15:28 EDT

Records have tumbled for the hottest January day in several NSW towns as the state endures day two of a severe heatwave.