A buoy floating in the North Atlantic has registered the biggest wave ever recorded.
At a height of 19 metres flat, the monster wave (or waves, actually – see below) beat the previous contender of 18.275 metres by a good couple of feet. Announced by the Commission for Climatology’s Extremes Evaluation Committee, a part of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the wave occurred on February 4, 2013, in waters between Iceland and the United Kingdom (approximately 59 degrees North, 11 degrees West).
“This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” says WMO Assistant Secretary-General Wenjian Zhang in a press release. “It highlights the importance of meteorological and ocean observations and forecasts to ensure the safety of the global maritime industry and to protect the lives of crew and passengers on busy shipping lanes.”
Wave height is defined as the distance between the crest of one wave and the trough of the next, but the “significant wave height” recorded by automated buoys is calculated as an average of the highest one-third of waves from a set of 15 to 20 well-formed waves occurring over a period of about ten minutes, meaning that the 19 metre measurement was likely bested by at least one of the waves in this particular set.
Zhang says that measurements from automated buoys supply important data for oceanographers and climatologists. “We need high quality and extensive ocean records to help in our understanding of weather/ocean interactions,” says Zhang. “Despite the huge strides in satellite technology, the sustained observations and data records from moored and drifting buoys and ships still play a major role in this respect.”
The WMO reports that wind patterns and changes in atmospheric pressure make winter waters in the North Atlantic the most prone to big waves. The area from the Grand Banks underwater plateaus off the coast of Newfoundland, south of Iceland and to the west coast of the UK are said to be prime wave record territory.
Deep Sea News reports that the 19.0 m significant wave is actually dwarfed by wave records in other categories, such as the highest breaking waves at shore, some of which have been measured at over 30 m (and surfed, too). Internal waves – those that solely travel underwater – are the real monsters, though, with some of them surpassing 200 m in height.
For those interested in such things, the WMO keeps an archive on all sorts of weather extremes from the past 100 or so years, detailing everything from the heaviest hailstone on record (1.02 kg) to the most tornadoes at one time (207, in April of 2011 in the Southeastern United States). The hottest temperature in North America (56.7 degrees Celsius) was recorded back in 1913 at the aptly named Furnace Creek Ranch in Southern California, while the coldest was a chilly -63.0 degrees Celsius, recorded in the village of Snag, Yukon, close to the Alaska border, in March of 1947.
Below: Garrett Mc Namara World record ! Surfing a 111 ft wave in Nazare – GoPro Hero