Topic 2d - Significant wave height
Satellite altimeters, which are used to measure sea surface currents, are also able to measure significant wave height. The introduction of altimeter observation with wave forecasting programmes has increased the accuracy of wave forecasting.
Wave models, give a first guess of the wave height measured, but satellite data will then provide necessary information for eliminating uncertainties in significant wave height models.
Who uses significant wave height data?
- Ships (for navigation and operational systems)
- Offshore drilling companies (for industrial applications)
Over the past 25 years of measuring wave height, the highest significant wave height was observed during winter storms in the North Atlantic. This wave was 20m high during the Quirin storm in February 2011. Also known as Rogue waves, these waves can be extremely dangerous to ships on high sea.
- Dr Lotfi Aouf
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Altimeters can measure sea surface height first and foremost the waves height, which is of prime importance to marine weather forecasters in terms of maritime safety. Wave heights from altimetric measurements are assimilated into sea state forecast models, and improve significantly their predictions.
Average significant wave height measured by the ERS radar altimeter over the boreal summer 1995.
SARAL Altika and Jason-2 altimeter significant wave heights over North Atlantic 9 Dec 2014.