Earlier today, MetOcean Solutions' wave buoy in the Southern Ocean recorded a whopping 19.4 m wave.
Senior Oceanographer Dr Tom Durrant is thrilled. "This is one of the largest waves recorded in the Southern Hemisphere," he explains. "This is the world's southern-most wave buoy moored in the open ocean, and we are excited to put it to the test in large seas."
Persistent westerly winds and unlimited fetch combine to make Southern Ocean waves among the biggest in the world. Sub-Antarctic waters are difficult to work in, and reliable wave data for the area is scarce. The buoy was deployed in a collaboration between the New Zealand Defence Force and MetOcean Solutions aiming to get valuable observations from this remote part of the ocean. Such observations will enable better forecasting and design of vessels built to withstand Southern Ocean conditions. Moored in a water depth of 150 m, the buoy is located within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone, 11 km south of Campbell Island.
"The buoy is performing extremely well so far," adds Tom. "Not only is it surviving these large waves, but it is making detailed recordings of extreme sea states in the Southern Ocean, a region rarely observed by in-situ instruments. During the depths of winter, Southern Ocean waves are enormous, with significant wave heights averaging over 5 m, and regularly exceeding 10 m. Individual waves can double that size. Accurate measurements of these conditions will help us understand waves and air-sea interactions in these extreme conditions. This, in turn, will lead to improvements in the models used to simulate the waves, providing better forecasts, both for the Southern Ocean and for the wider region. Waves generated in the Southern Ocean have far-reaching effects, contributing significantly to the wave climate in all the major ocean basins."