Wave power variability and trends across the North Pacific

Authors

  • Peter D. Bromirski,

    Corresponding author
    1. Climate, Atmospheric Sciences and Physical Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
    • Corresponding author: P. D. Bromirski, Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0209, USA. (pbromirski@ucsd.edu)

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  • Daniel R. Cayan,

    1. Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and U.S. Geological Survey, La Jolla, California, USA
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  • John Helly,

    1. San Diego Supercomputer Center and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Climate Research Division, La Jolla, California, USA
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  • Paul Wittmann

    1. Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, Monterey, California, USA
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Abstract

[1] Multiyear climate variations influence North Pacific storm intensity and resultant variations in wave energy levels. The timing of these decadal fluctuations and strong El Niño's have had a strong influence on long-term trends. Here we investigate variations in the North Pacific wave power, PW, determined from WAVEWATCH III (WW3) wave model significant wave height, Hs, and peak period data forced by NRA-1 winds spanning the 1948–2008 epoch. Over the entire hindcast, upward trends in Hs and PW, especially in winter, are observed over much of the North Pacific, strongly influenced by an apparent storm intensification after the mid-1970s regime shift. Heightened PW is concentrated in particular regions of the basin, and is associated with increased wave activity during the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Wave power events, PE, defined as episodes when Hs exceeded the 90th percentile threshold for at least 12 h, exhibit significant upward trends along much of the U.S. Pacific coast during winter months. Importantly, the hindcast exhibits a recent decrease in PW across much of the North Pacific, in contrast to the long-term increase of PW and Hs. This recent decrease is associated with the prevalent PDO cool phase that developed after the late 1990s. Variability and intensification of coastal PW and PE have important practical implications for shoreline and beach erosion, coastal wetlands inundation, storm-surge flooding, and coastal planning. These considerations will become increasingly important as sea level rises.

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