Four years of monthly averaged wave height fields for the austral winters 19851988 derived from the Geosat altimeter data show a spatial variability of the scale of 500-1000 km that varies monthly and annually. This variability is superimposed on the zonal patterns surrounding the Antarctic continent and characteristic of the climatology derived from the U.S. Navy  Marine Climatic Atlas of the World. The location and the intensity of these large-scale features, which are not found in the climatological fields, exhibit strong monthly and yearly variations. A global underestimation of the climatological mean wave heights by more than l m is also found over large regions of the Southern Ocean. The largest monthly averaged significant wave heights are above 5 m and are found during August of every year in the Indian Ocean, south of 40??S. The monthly wave fields show more variability in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans than in the Indian Ocean. The Seasat data from 1978 and the Geosat data from 1985 and 1988 show an eastward rotation of the largest wave heights. However, this rotation is absent in 1986 and 1987; the former was a year of unusually low sea states, and the latter was a year of unusually high sea states, which suggests a link to the El Nin??o-Southern Oscillation event of 1986. Copyright 1996 by the American Geophysical Union.