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Changes to extreme wave climates of islands within the Western Tropical Pacific throughout the 21st century under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, with implications for island vulnerability and sustainability

Global and Planetary Change

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, , , and
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2016.03.009

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Abstract

Waves are the dominant influence on coastal morphology and ecosystem structure of tropical Pacific islands. Wave heights, periods, and directions for the 21st century were projected using near-surface wind fields from four atmosphere-ocean coupled global climate models (GCM) under representative concentration pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5. GCM-derived wind fields forced the global WAVEWATCH-III wave model to generate hourly time-series of bulk wave parameters around 25 islands in the mid to western tropical Pacific Ocean for historical (1976–2005), mid-, and end-of-century time periods. Extreme significant wave heights decreased (~10.0%) throughout the 21st century under both climate scenarios compared to historical wave conditions and the higher radiative forcing 8.5 scenario displayed a greater and more widespread decrease in extreme significant wave heights compared to the lower forcing 4.5 scenario. An exception was for the end-of-century June–August season. Offshore of islands in the central equatorial Pacific, extreme significant wave heights displayed the largest changes from historical values. The frequency of extreme events during December–February decreased under RCP 8.5, whereas the frequency increased under RCP 4.5. Mean wave directions often rotated more than 30° clockwise at several locations during June–August, which could indicate a weakening of the trade winds’ influence on extreme wave directions and increasing dominance of Southern Ocean swell or eastern shift of storm tracks. The projected changes in extreme wave heights, directions of extreme events, and frequencies at which extreme events occur will likely result in changes to the morphology and sustainability of island nations.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Changes to extreme wave climates of islands within the Western Tropical Pacific throughout the 21st century under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, with implications for island vulnerability and sustainability
Series title:
Global and Planetary Change
DOI:
10.1016/j.gloplacha.2016.03.009
Volume:
141
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
Elsevier
Contributing office(s):
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description:
14 p.
First page:
25
Last page:
38
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N