Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ocean Wave Power Sparks Concern

Scientists at the University California-Santa Cruz say the energy in ocean waves has been increasing as a consequence of climate change.

Their research published this week in the online journal Nature Communications found a direct association between ocean warming and increased wave energy, according an article on their research also published by EurekAlert Express, the online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The UC Santa Cruz study focused on the energy contained in ocean waves, which is transmitted from the wind and transformed into wave motion. Wave power has been increasing in direct correlation with historical warming of the ocean surface. The upper ocean warming, measured as a rising trend in sea surface temperatures, has influenced wind patterns globally, and this, in turn, is making ocean waves stronger, the research concluded.

The study’s lead author, Borja G. Reguero, said that wave power has increased globally by 0.4 percent a year since 1948, and that this increase is correlated with the increasing sea-surface temperatures both globally and by ocean regions.

This increased wave power will also have an impact on breakwaters designed to protect harbors, Reguero noted. “How we design breakwaters needs to start factoring the effects of climate change, not only with the rising sea levels, but also increased wave action,” he said. “Coastal structures will have to be designed for the future conditions, so they can keep up their original design levels.”

There has not been much work done on how these changes could affect safety and navigation conditions. Reguero said that understanding how the energy of ocean waves responds to oceanic warming has important implications for coastal communities, including anticipating impacts on infrastructure. These include navigation safety, but also access to harbors and ports, condition and evolution of coastal ecosystems and other impacts such as flooding and erosion. “Sea level rise will also allow more wave energy to reach shoreward, which will have aggravated consequences,” he added.

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