Satellite records largest ever wave height
Considering the coverage it's had, you'd be hard-pressed not to have heard the news about Hurricane Florence which is currently tracking towards the South Carolina coastline.
At its peak, Florence was a Category 4 system but is now weakening while tracking west-northwest and will cross the coast as a Category 3 storm, likely causing widespread destruction due to the combined actions of waves, wind, rain, and the expected storm surge.
It's worth pointing out that Typhoon Mangkhut which is currently just east of the Phillipines will cross their country with greater force than Florence, but hardly a word is being spoke about this storm, which will continue onwards towards Hong Kong.
But I digress, what's remarkable about Hurricane Florence is that the largest ever Significant Wave Height recorded by satellite was picked up within the storm yesterday, coming in at a 83.47ft (25.44m) on its eastern flank.
This has dwarfed the previous largest Significant Wave Height of 65.94ft (20.1m) recorded by the Jason 2 altimeter satellite in 2011 from extra-tropical storm Quirin in the North Atlantic.
Space-borne wave height measurements have only been in operation since the late 1980s with the current Jason 2 satellite deployed in 2008, the successor of the still operational Jason 1 satellite.
Open ocean sea heights are obtained from the altimeter by recording the time it takes for a microwave signal to be sent down and reflected off the Earth's surface along with corrections made for water vapour in the atmosphere.
Not every storm is captured by Jason 1 and 2 but 95% of the Earth's oceans are covered within a ten day period giving a great verification tool for the global wave and climate models.
We were just lucky enough that one of these satellites passed over the ocean area surrounding Hurricane Florence, picking up such an incredible reading.
The resultant swell impacting the Carolina coastline won't be anywhere near as big, but a double whammy from the storm-surge and storm swell from Florence will cause widespread erosion and damage to the region.
Altimetery imagery coutresy of National Hurricane Center's Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch