Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 5–6, pp 1335–1360 | Cite as

Multi-model projections of twenty-first century North Pacific winter wave climate under the IPCC A2 scenario

  • Nicholas E. Graham
  • Daniel R. Cayan
  • Peter D. Bromirski
  • Reinhard E. Flick


A dynamical wave model implemented over the North Pacific Ocean was forced with winds from three coupled global climate models (CGCMs) run under a medium-to-high scenario for greenhouse gas emissions through the twenty-first century. The results are analyzed with respect to changes in upper quantiles of significant wave height (90th and 99th percentile HS) during boreal winter. The three CGCMs produce surprisingly similar patterns of change in winter wave climate during the century, with waves becoming 10–15 % smaller over the lower mid-latitudes of the North Pacific, particularly in the central and western ocean. These decreases are closely associated with decreasing windspeeds along the southern flank of the main core of the westerlies. At higher latitudes, 99th percentile wave heights generally increase, though the patterns of change are less uniform than at lower latitudes. The increased wave heights at high latitudes appear to be due a variety of wind-related factors including both increased windspeeds and changes in the structure of the wind field, these varying from model to model. For one of the CGCMs, a commonly used statistical approach for estimating seasonal quantiles of HS on the basis of seasonal mean sea level pressure (SLP) is used to develop a regression model from 60 years of twentieth century data as a training set, and then applied using twenty-first century SLP data. The statistical model reproduces the general pattern of decreasing twenty-first century wave heights south of ~40 N, but underestimates the magnitude of the changes by ~50–70 %, reflecting relatively weak coupling between sea level pressure and wave heights in the CGCM data and loss of variability in the statistically projected wave heights.


Climate change Ocean waves North Pacific 



This work was conducted under funding from the California Energy Commission PIER Program through a University of California, California Institute for Energy and Environment (UC-CIEE) Award, No. POCV01-X12 to Scripps Institution of Oceanography (DC, PB, RF) and sub-award 500-09-038 to the Hydrologic Research Center (NG). The authors extend many thanks to Emelia Bainto and Mary Tyree for their valuable assistance with the wave model simulations, and with data acquisition and processing. Thanks as well to three anonymous reviewers whose suggestions helped improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas E. Graham
    • 1
  • Daniel R. Cayan
    • 2
    • 3
  • Peter D. Bromirski
    • 2
  • Reinhard E. Flick
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Hydrologic Research CenterSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.California Department of Boating and WaterwaysSacramentoUSA

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