Abstract

Assessing trends of sea surface wave, wind, and coastal wave setup is of considerable scientific and practical importance in view of recent and projected long-term sea level rise due to global warming. Here we analyze global significant wave height (SWH) and wind data from 1993 to 2015 and a wave model to (i) calculate wave age and explain the causal, or the lack thereof, relationship between wave and wind trends; and (ii) estimate trends of coastal wave setup and its contributions to secular trends of relative sea level at coastal locations around the world. We show in-phase, increasing SWH and wind trends in regions dominated by younger waves, and decreasing SWH trends where older waves dominate and are unrelated to the local wind trends. In the central North Pacific where wave age is transitional, in-phase decreasing wave and wind trends are found over the west-northwestern region, but wave and wind trends are insignificantly correlated in the south-southeastern region; here, a reversed, upward momentum flux from wave to wind is postulated. We show that coastal wave setup depends primarily on open-ocean SWH but only weakly on wind, varying approximately like SWH/(wind speed)1/5. The wave-setup trends are shown to be increasing along many coastlines where the local relative sea level trends are also increasing: the North and Irish Seas, Mediterranean Sea, East and South Asian seas, and eastern United States, exacerbating the potential for increased floods along these populated coastlines.

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