World’s wind and waves have been rising for decades

by Wendy Zukerman

Wind speeds and wave heights over the world’s oceans have been rising for the past quarter-century. It’s unclear if this is a short-term trend, or a symptom of longer-term climatic change. Either way, more frequent hurricanes and cyclones could be on the horizon.

Ian Young at the Australian National University in Canberra and colleagues analysed satellite data from 1985 to 2008 to calculate wave heights and wind speeds over the world’s oceans. They found that winds had strengthened – speeding up over most of the world’s oceans by 0.25 to 0.5 per cent, on average, each year. Overall, wind speeds were 5 to 10 per cent faster than they had been 20 years earlier.

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