EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Global wave height trends and variability from new multi-mission satellite altimeter products, reanalyses and wave buoys

Christine Gommenginger1, Ben Timmermans1, Guillaume Dodet2, and Jean-Raymond Bidlot3
Christine Gommenginger et al.
  • 1National Oceanography Centre, Satellite Oceanography, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom
  • 2Ifremer, Laboratoire d’Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS), Brest, France
  • 3European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Road, Reading RG2 9AX, United Kingdom

Accurate knowledge and understanding of the sea state and its variability is crucial to numerous oceanic and coastal engineering applications, but also to climate change and related impacts including coastal inundation from extreme weather and ice-shelf break-up. The increasing duration of the satellite altimeter record for sea state motivates a range of global analyses, including the examination of changes in ocean climate. For ocean surface waves in particular, the recent development and release of new products providing observations of altimeter-derived significant wave height make long term analyses fairly straightforward.

In this study, significant wave height climatologies and trends over 1992-2017 are intercompared in four recent high-quality global datasets using a consistent methodology. In particular, we make use of products presented by Ribal et al. (2019), and the recently released product developed through the European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (CCI) for Sea State (Dodet et al. 2020, ESSD, in review). Regional differences in mean climatology are identified and linked to low and high sea states, while temporal trends from the altimetry products, and two reanalysis and hindcast datasets, show general similarity in spatial variation and magnitude but with major differences in equatorial regions and the Indian Ocean. Discrepancies between altimetry products likely arise from differences in calibration and quality control. However, multidecadal observations at buoy stations also highlight issues with wave buoy data, raising questions about their unqualified use, and more fundamentally about uncertainty in all sea state products. We discuss these results in the context of both the current state of knowledge of the changing wave climate, and the on-going development of CCI Sea State altimetry products.

How to cite: Gommenginger, C., Timmermans, B., Dodet, G., and Bidlot, J.-R.: Global wave height trends and variability from new multi-mission satellite altimeter products, reanalyses and wave buoys, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19804,, 2020


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