Research ArticleOCEANOGRAPHY

Projected 21st century changes in extreme wind-wave events

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Science Advances  10 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 24, eaaz7295
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz7295


We describe an innovative approach to estimate global changes in extreme wave conditions by 2100, as a result of projected climate change. We generate a synthetic dataset from an ensemble of wave models forced by independent climate simulation winds, enhancing statistical confidence associated with projected changes in extreme wave conditions. Under two IPCC representative greenhouse gas emission scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), we find that the magnitude of a 1 in 100-year significant wave height (Hs) event increases by 5 to 15% over the Southern Ocean by the end of the 21st century, compared to the 1979–2005 period. The North Atlantic shows a decrease at low to mid latitudes (≈5 to 15%) and an increase at high latitudes (≈10%). The extreme significant wave height in the North Pacific increases at high latitudes by 5 to 10%. The ensemble approach used here allows statistical confidence in projected changes of extremes.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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