The world is getting windier

By Laura Brown - 08 Apr 2011 15:27:0 GMT
The world is getting windier

The world is getting windier and waves are getting are getting higher, a new study has discovered.

Researchers at the Australian National University in Canberra measured global wind speeds across the oceans using data from seven satellites from 1985 to 2008.

Using five techniques to independently measure the figures, they found the speeds of the fastest winds have increased by around half a percent. The height of the biggest waves has risen by between a quarter and half a percent.

The team, led by oceanographer Ian Young aren't clear on what has caused the rise. It could be climate change or a natural long-term cycle.

''We may be observing an upward increase of something that, in the future, will go down again. However, the fact that we're seeing this on a global basis in both the northern and the southern hemispheres suggests it may be a long-term trend rather than an oscillation. If we're going to design things in the future, we may want to actually factor in oceanic waves going up.''

The impact on coastal communities as well as areas already exposed to extreme weather could be significant. Ocean winds have an effect on storms. Hurricanes could become more destructive meaning buildings would have to be fortified to a greater extent. Higher ocean waves could mean coastal and offshore structures would been to be designed to withstand greater tidal pressure.

Published in the journal Science. The researchers found, although the impact has been felt across the globe, in fact it has been more significant in the southern hemisphere. Off the coast of Southern Australia, for example, the most extreme winds have increased by 10 percent. The tallest waves are around six metres higher.