Bigger waves: Good for surfers, bad for fishing communities

• February 12, 2013
Ocean waves in Indonesia, Creative Commons: Shenghung Lin, 2007

Ocean waves in Indonesia, Creative Commons: Shenghung Lin, 2007

The effect of climate change on global oceans will increase wave heights by up to 30 centimeters in areas of the southern hemisphere, while creating calmer waves in the northern hemisphere.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, predicts a wave height increase of between 20 and 30 centimeters in an area covering at least 7% of the surface of the world’s oceans. This is due to the poleward intensification of the westerly winds in the southern hemisphere, resulting from climate change.

The news sounds good for surfers, but in places where wave heights are predicted to rise – including Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Antarctica – rougher oceans could create hardship for fishing communities and seaweed farmers. Coastal communities in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are among the poorest in the world, and fisheries account around 20% of Indonesia’s economy.

Additionally, higher waves could harm coral reefs by altering coastal sediment deposits and by reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the reefs.


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TckTckTck is the online hub for the Global Call for Climate Action. The GCCA represents an unprecedented alliance of more than 400 nonprofit organizations from around the world. Our shared mission is to mobilize civil society and galvanize public support to ensure a safe climate future for people and nature, to promote the low-carbon transition of our economies, and to accelerate the adaptation efforts in communities already affected by climate change.

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