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1 January 2011 Evidence for Changes to the Northeast Pacific Wave Climate
Richard J. Seymour
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A large database of deep water wave buoy measurements over a 24-year period is created for four regions comprising the West Coast of the United States. The regional monthly mean significant wave height (MMSWH) is selected as the defining wave climate parameter and averaging multiple data sources within a region is found to significantly reduce data gaps. Two 12-year periods are compared, showing significant temporal variability but high correlation between regions, allowing the further collapse of the data to a northern and a southern region. Correlations between MMSWH records with three global-scale climate indices are investigated and only the North Pacific Index (NPI), a measure of atmospheric pressure in the Gulf of Alaska, shows strong correlation. The Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) is less correlated and the Pacific Decadal Index (PDO), which is a measure of ocean surface temperature, provides no significant correlation.

A method for displaying multiple correlations is developed that shows the mean of all MMSWH records that occur at unique temporal combinations of two climate indices. The graphics depicting the mean wave height as a function of NPI and MEI for the two 12-year periods are shown to be very instructive in establishing why the two periods are so different. On the contrary, the same procedure with PDO substituted for MEI produces uniform distributions with little interpretive value.

Century-scale variation in the climate indices is investigated, and significant linear trends are found for NPI and MEI, both consistent with causing increases in mean wave energy in these regions. Causal relationships for the observed correlations are discussed, and conclusions are reached indicating that global warming is a likely contributor to observed increases in wave intensity in the North Pacific.

Richard J. Seymour "Evidence for Changes to the Northeast Pacific Wave Climate," Journal of Coastal Research 27(1), 194-201, (1 January 2011).
Received: 23 October 2009; Accepted: 18 January 2010; Published: 1 January 2011

climate change
Pacific Ocean
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