Satellite records largest ever wave height

Craig Brokensha
Swellnet Analysis

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

Comments

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 1:56pm

Did you see the footage where they flew through that thing ...eery in the eye
I Have been following Phillipines one on Earthnull that east coast would have to be off its tits atm ?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 2:40pm

Re: Super Typhoon Mangkhut - latest JTWC notes have Hsig 46ft (14.2m). Max heights could be double that. 

http://www.metoc.navy.mil/jtwc/products/wp2618web.txt

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 5:27pm

So that's a significant of 83, max can be double... whoa.

Very much reminds me of the wave at the end of 'The Perfect Storm' that toasts the Andrea Gail - in the film that occurred right near the eye, but what the satellite measures is largest waves some distance from the eye. Is that how it works?

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 7:27pm

Ok. So we have a recording of 83ft. What im wondering about is what that actually translates too. Is that a 83ft face wave or is 83ft of raw swell susceptible too (hypothetically, as surely this wave isn’t inbound too any coasts?) factors that make Nazarre so or vice versa?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 7:36pm

No need to confuse things Nick.

It's the raw open ocean swell height, ie from trough to crest - calculated by taking the average of the highest third of the waves recorded over a time period.

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 8:06pm

I wish my confusion on no other man/woman. Maybe i could rephrase as “If you were down at the local and you saw it, would you say ‘oh, theres a 83ft is wave?”

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 8:11pm

Haha, yes, face height.

mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner commented Saturday, 15 Sep 2018 at 7:22am

No everyone knows it goes up in 2’s mate.
You’d say 82-84ft

Mibs

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Saturday, 15 Sep 2018 at 8:10pm

Ha.

seen's picture
seen's picture
seen commented Sunday, 16 Sep 2018 at 1:55pm

“6-foot solid, mate...”

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 8:10pm

I didn’t see it myself, but a reliable friend once told me about a doco about the largest wave recorded by a pilot in Alaska (I think) There was a landslide and a piece of mountain fell into the water below, causing a local tsunami sending a wave into a small bay, the water level, or wave, squeezed by the walls of the shape of the bay and surrounding mountains, rose by 1200ft. He used his altimeter to measure where it rose to. But of course we, as people who ride waves, know that doesn’t count. I thought I’d share the story anyway..

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 13 Sep 2018 at 8:11pm

Yeah that's a crazy story, I think it may have been in the book Ghost Wave?

jimbrown's picture
jimbrown's picture
jimbrown commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 10:04am
Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:02pm

Thanks for the link!

Switchfoot bob's picture
Switchfoot bob's picture
Switchfoot bob commented Saturday, 15 Sep 2018 at 1:53am

It also states in there they have been measuring giant giant waves for quite sometime via satellite but a lot of them were dismissed thought to be an error but the tales of all the ships gone down says otherwise.

Switchfoot bob's picture
Switchfoot bob's picture
Switchfoot bob commented Saturday, 15 Sep 2018 at 1:49am

Susan casey wrote an intriguing book called " the wave" it is very interesting read it accounts many tales going back As far as the first reports of giant waves breaking ships in half in the bell rolling at Lloyds in London, it rang every time a ship went down, and the stories of lituya bay in Alaska which was thought to be safe anchorage. There are tales of laird and garret in there as well.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 12:18pm

The Laird stuff is pretty enlightening. I'll leave it at that.

offshoreozzie's picture
offshoreozzie's picture
offshoreozzie commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 5:05am

Are these figures ever open to error? It's satellite data... are there factors that could cause a misreading? A Surfline audio discussion was calling validity into question... their expert said wave heights generally matched severity scale - eg. 30-40' seas on a cat 3, 40-50 on a Cat 4 etc... They did say possibly a captured fetch scenario casued
Anyone here questioning this one or we accept as fact?

Also given the location and direction where will/did this wave likely eventually break? Africa? Just a light hearted curiosity on this second part :)

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 7:30am

Re errors..

"A microwave radiometer corrects any delay that may be caused by water vapor in the atmosphere. Other corrections are also required to account for the influence of electrons in the ionosphere and the dry air mass of the atmosphere. Combining these data with the precise location of the spacecraft makes it possible to determine sea-surface height to within a few centimetres (about one inch)."

Also looking at the surrounding readings there are quite a few which are up in this record breaking range instead of one large outlier.

offshoreozzie's picture
offshoreozzie's picture
offshoreozzie commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 11:08am

Makes sense. Wasn't a large outlier as you mention. Thanks.

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 5:50am

Microwave reading, a bit like lazor. I wonder if they distort in the sun. Very scary nasty looking system!!

Victory!

The Fire's picture
The Fire's picture
The Fire commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 6:16am

Im more interested in the phillapines typhoon. Looks very intense on nullschool.

Peace maaaan..

ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 8:36am

agree. nth luzon is not the place you want to be atm

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 7:48am

Where is Mark Visser?

campbell's picture
campbell's picture
campbell commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 9:52am

ha ha I was wondering that too

...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 7:50am

"Also given the location and direction where will/did this wave likely eventually break? Africa? Just a light hearted curiosity on this second part :)"

The wind field where it was recorded was blowing roughly south to north, so my guess is a bommie on the Grand Banks that last broke in 1918.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 8:38am

Quite a monster!

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:02pm

It goes gary glass off in the eye doesn’t it?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:05pm

Haha yeah.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:47pm

Shit don’t encourage him, being Friday arvo he’d be excited enough..

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:44pm

ABC insta got a nice pic of it.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:48pm

Craig can you please explain to Udo how you just did that!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 12:52pm

Haha, hh, this is using a more sophisticated editor which can embed, which you guys don't have sorry.

But to post images and URL's Udo, just post the image URL in between the tags [img] url [/img]

ryder's picture
ryder's picture
ryder commented Friday, 14 Sep 2018 at 1:05pm

I'll second that motion

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Sunday, 16 Sep 2018 at 7:36pm

Significant Wave Height is the mean average height...I'm guessing?
Here's a list of just some 100ft + waves... how significant I couldn't say...

8,000 y'ago... Sicily 100 ft
1883... Krakatoa 140 ft
1896...Japan/East 125 ft
1946...Alaska 140 ft
1964... Alaska/Valdez 220 ft
2004...Sri Lanka 170 ft
2011...Japan 130 ft (150 experts from 50 institutes examined 5,400 locales for 130 ft size)
Fukushima waves that world saw was but only one of the locations measured.

Swellnet crew also reported on that 23.8m wave off NZ back in May of this year.

All these 100ft step downs are mere speed bumps to the gargantuan waveriders...
Swellnetonians Salute!

1958...Lituya Bay.
Howard & Jnr Ulrich + Swansons surfed their skiffs over mountain trees on a 1,720 ft wave.
(2 on the Sunmore tried surfing it & Wiped Out with 3 others on The Spit drowned) {R.I.P}

1963...Vajont Dam townsfolk bodybashed+bodyboarded a 820 ft wave 1000's died. {R.I.P}

1980...Mt St Helens impact zone 850 ft wave wiped out 3 on Spirit Lake...{R.I.P}

Not one has been honoured in WSL Big Wave Hall of Fame.
100's of 1,000's fought for their lives Surfing these Ginaormous Waves.
None can deny them that...Lest we forget!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Sunday, 16 Sep 2018 at 9:09pm

2800BC...

https://www.livescience.com/53352-monster-tsunami-created-madagascar-dun...
https://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/14/science/14WAVE.html
https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/D84J0DWD
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/caca/b5a87de77d931ec83adbb77c3ea22c677e...

Estimate 600ft Tsunami striking Madagascar, evidence of hit on WA coastline, potentially as far north as India/Ur Valley.

The big one was 12,900 years ago but that's another story.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 12:54pm

Awesome links VJ and very very interesting. Seems more than plausible looking at the samples they collect in these chevrons.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 8:06pm

thx and glad to spin people out!

What do you reckon of those boulders on the Aussie clifftops (last link, a few pages in, listed as p.202). Possible?

Gary G's picture
Gary G's picture
Gary G commented Sunday, 16 Sep 2018 at 9:46pm

Gary was expecting to find a comment along the lines of:
“Jeez crowdnet, talk it up. You blokes sitting in your satellites up in space over-hyping swells. There’s gonna be pelicans everywhere down here tomorrow and not an 83ft wave in sight”

But perhaps the wave hasn’t hit the coast yet and we’re only treated to that sort of forecast commentary after the event?

You and me, Gary, ain’t nothing but mammals so let’s do it* like they do it on the aerobics channel

*faceys

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 1:46am

See how far this thread plays out...
> 100ft Hurricanes/Typhoons/Cyclonic Waves
100 ft+ Undersea Volcanic Waves
200 ft+ Earth shattering Seismic Waves
Up to & over 1000 ft Mountain Wedgie Waves
Now we got velocityjohnno's out this world 1000 ft Clean up sets
Soon be tripping back to acid bath days surfing Huey's great grandma's mother of all waves.

[factcheck] WA is home to 1st ocean & ocean life + Qld is home to 1st Waves/surfers/beach
Thankfully both sites are World Heritage protected.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 12:22pm

12,900 years is some seriously long set time for velocityjohnno's epic Biblical Tsunami.
Crystal Ball gazing will kill some time...

Should a Solar Tsunami unseat our Big Brother surf forecasters from Judging Panel.
Then Jason & Jason Jnr + celeb judges Altika, Cryosat and 3a would hurtle towards Earth.

These 2nd,3rd,3a,4th,5th comings should fire up the worlds oceans.
Significant ring of fire Set Waves all hightailing toward each other. Sacredcowabunga!
The motherlode with Huey rattling on about Davey Jones locker.

That Wave was too big to measure without Satellites...Hot topic that was! WIPEOUT!

Returning from The Milky Way the Starfish silversurf moonbeams back to ocean homes.
Earth 2... Chocolate Starfish detect epic Seismic readings from the seafloor...

The resurrection. "All Hail The Great Huey Houdini!"
The 7 seas did rise to touch the sky forming 'The Milky Wave'.
Surfs up! Grom Starfish trail blazing 7th heaven forever.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 8:18pm

That one is a hypothesized impact on the Laurentide ice sheet for which evidence exists that could support a 400ft deep flood of water moving at 100km/h+ for most of an afternoon over a vast amount of that continent. Any civilisation that did exist on the North American continent by the afternoon, didn't. I'd love to do an article or a forum topic on it, going through the evidence, ancient calendars and mythology, the concept of the cosmic wheel/yugas and procession of equinoxes, Taurid meteor shower, etc. Busy times at present and the 2800BC links are a bit easier to post. Seek and ye shall find :)

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Friday, 21 Sep 2018 at 3:11am

Hope I catch it if you do it VJ.

The cosmic wheel/ yugas. Spent a lot of time many years ago contemplating that stuff.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 16 Nov 2018 at 5:32pm

THEY MAY HAVE FOUND IT BATFINK AND TBB!!!

The global civilisation-ending meteor that destroyed most of the Northern Hemi at the dawn of the Age of Leo, 13,000 years ago! They may have found the impact crater, in Greenland not the Laurentide sheet. The reason for all the bones of the northern megafauna deposited in singular places at a single time. The reason for the flood myths. The reason for the 120 metre sea level rise! The black mat, worldwide.

https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12941

Yes! The Cosmic Wheel, the yugas. The increased risk at the transition of an age (such as now: see Randall Carlson's correlations to civilisational extinctions at the cross over of ages). Plato's account of Solon's conversation with the sages of Sais and the destruction of Atlantis. Why the Mayans didn't bother to update their calendar further after 2012. We go over and under the galactic plane in about a <26,000 year cycle, and the crossings disrupt stuff - either meteors or increased cosmic rays. Fire or water. Currently, solar output is dropping off a cliff, the magnetic poles are accelerating their shift, cosmic ray influx is increasing, the whole solar system's weather is showing anomalies. As the sage says to Solon in Donnelly's writing:

"There is a story which even you have preserved, that once upon a time Phaethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now, this has the form of a myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving around the earth and in the heavens, and a great conflagration of things upon the earth recurring at long intervals of time: when this happens, those who live upon the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the sea-shore; and from this calamity the Nile, who is our never-failing savior, saves and delivers us.

When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, among you herdsmen and shepherds on the mountains are the survivors, whereas those of you who live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea; but in this country neither at that time nor at any other does the water come from above on the fields, having always a tendency to come up from below, for which reason the things preserved here are said to be the oldest."

But I'd best not get any more excited. OK so we can now add some science, a crater is there. Dating it conclusively to follow, could be as recent as inside 13,000 years.

ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko's picture
ojackojacko commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 5:36pm

a japanese coastguard boat going over the 2011 tsunami out at sea. the first one is the big one. chilling knowing what it did when it made landfall
https://youtu.be/-VcWF8dIDj4

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 5:41pm

:o

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