78-foot Monster Wave Breaks Record In South Hemisphere

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New Zealand’s weather authority believes that a wave measuring 78 feet that hit southern hemisphere on May 9 is the largest ever recorded in the region.

The wave was estimated to be as high as an 8-story building. It was recorded by a buoy located on Campbell Island that is being managed by MetOcean Solutions, an arm of the Meteorological Service of New Zealand or MetService.

The giant wave, brought by a storm that landed in the region on Wednesday, beat the records of a wave measuring 63 feet, which occurred in 2017 and another wave measuring 72 feet, which happened in 2012.

Dr. Tom Durrant, a senior oceanographer with MetOcean, said surfers in California can expect the energy of this storm to reach them within a week.

Ultimately, the giant wave will contribute greatly to oceanographers’ deep understanding of the wave physics in the Southern Ocean.

Durrant concluded that there are much larger waves that hit the South Hemisphere on Wednesday but their buoy failed to record them. He believed there are waves that could have possibly reached as high as 82 feet. He explained that the wave forecast for the storm has actually shown larger waves hitting the island north of the buoy location.

Furthermore, there were brief interventions where the agency’s buoy stopped recording to send data through satellite links as Durrant explained. Specifically, the solar-powered buoy only gathers data for 20 minutes every three hours and then it would stop to send those obtained data to the agency. This intervention is needed for the buoy to conserve its battery.

Even with its height of 78 feet, the monster wave, however, failed to beat a world record recognized in 2016 by the World Meteorological Organization.

WMO does not recognize records based on individual wave heights. Instead, it uses the measurement known as the “significant wave height.” The term means calculating based on the average of the highest one-third of waves measured by an instrument. An observer should see an average of about 15-20 waves over a period of about 10 minutes.

Using the “significant wave height” measurement, the buoy only recorded a wave height of 48 feet. The world record, which WMO recognized in 2013, was 62 feet. The said wave was recorded in North Atlantic in February 2013.

Nevertheless, Durrant remained positive that the 78-foot monster wave proved that the Southern Ocean is also a unique ocean basin similar to its counterparts in other hemispheres. The region, he said, is the least studied despite occupying 22 percent of the Earth’s ocean.

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