Wave taller than a six-storey building sets 'remarkable' world record
UN weather agency recorded 62ft wave in February 2013 in the North Atlantic, in a remote spot between Great Britain and Iceland after a strong cold front
A surfer rides a wave at Dungeons offshore reef in the Atlantic Ocean outside Cape Town. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA (The new wave was a lot bigger...)
A towering 19-meter (62.3ft) wave in the North Atlantic has set a world record as the highest ever measured by a buoy, according to the UN’s weather agency.
An automated buoy measured the wave at a remote spot between Great Britain and Iceland on 4 February 2013 at 6.00 GMT, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.
Taller than a six-storey building, the huge wave occurred after a “very strong cold front” passed through the area, with winds of up to 43.8 knots (50.4mph).
“This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” the WMO assistant secretary general, Wenjian Zhang, said in the statement.
Classified as “the highest significant wave height as measured by a buoy” by the WMO Commission for Climatology’s Extremes Evaluation Committee, the wave crushed the previous record of 18.275 meters (59.96ft), measured in December 2007 in the North Atlantic.
Wave height is defined as the distance from the crest of one wave to the trough of the next; significant wave height means the average of the highest one-third of waves measured by an instrument.
The North Atlantic, between the Grand Banks underwater plateau off Canada, the south of Iceland and the west of Great Britain, is often the setting for gigantic waves, thanks to wind patterns which lead to “intense extra-tropical storms” sometimes called “bombs”, the WMO said.
The new wave height has been added to the WMO’s Global Weather & Climate Extremes Archive, which tracks such milestones. The highest significant wave height measured by a ship observation occurred in the North Atlantic in February of 2000, and measured 29.05 meters (95.03 ft), according to the archive.
In the release, Dr Zhang emphasized that, though there have been strides in satellite technology, “the sustained observations and data records from moored and drifting buoys and ships still play a major role” in helping to understand the interaction between weather and ocean.
Automated buoys relay data on swells, sea current and temperatures for scientists, seafarers and climate researchers.