Climate change, at least that threatens human life, is bad. It is scary, it is happening, and we have no idea what the future holds for the planet, the oceans, our lives on it … Bad.

But, if you are determined to find a silver lining, and you surf, there’s this: Warmer oceans produce bigger waves. Yay?

Mavericks, ticking bigger whether you know it or not.

A new study from the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows that wave power has historically increased with upticks in ocean temperatures.

“For the first time, we have identified a global signal of the effect of global warming in wave climate. In fact, wave power has increased globally by 0.4 percent per year since 1948, and this increase is correlated with the increasing sea-surface temperatures, both globally and by ocean regions,” said lead author Borja G. Reguero.

It appears the phenomenon is due to increasing winds over warmer waters. This doesn’t mean tropically warm waters, either. Apparently any ocean warming, even in polar regions, results in strengthened winds, and, thusly, more powerful surf.

Scientists now think this increase is so predictable, wave power might be as valuable an indicator of global warming as carbon dioxide concentration is.


Of course, this sounds pretty good to swell-starved surfers. But bigger waves produce all sorts of complications. Coastal erosion, is the biggie here. Assuming waves continue to increase in size and power, coastal infrastructure designed around wave size in past decades may prove totally inadequate. Think crumbling cliffside neighborhoods, jetties, piers and breakwaters that need to be rebuilt, etc.

It could also mean reshaping of sandbars, swamping of pointbreaks, and general coastal reshaping, affecting cherished, sensitive surf spots.

So, enjoy it while you can, I guess?

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