Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 136, Issue 1–2, pp 543–552 | Cite as

A climatology of extreme wave height events impacting eastern Lake Ontario shorelines

  • Matthew B. Grieco
  • Arthur T. DeGaetanoEmail author
Original Paper


Model-derived wave height data for points along the eastern Lake Ontario shoreline provide the basis for a 36-year climatology of extreme wave heights. The most extreme wave heights exceed 6 m at all locations, except for those along the extreme northeastern shoreline of the Lake. Typically extreme wave events are a regional phenomenon, affecting multiple locations along the eastern and southeastern shoreline. A pronounced seasonal cycle in wave event occurrence is characterized by peaks in autumn and spring, with an absence of 99.9th percentile wave heights during summer. Less extreme (90th percentile heights) occur in all months with a peak in winter. Extreme wave events are most often associated with a low pressure center tracking to the north of Lake Ontario from the Ohio Valley. This track produces the strong winds > 10 ms−1 and predominantly west-to-east wind fetch that characterize high wave height events. The seasonal frequency of the wave events exceeding the historical 95th percentile has shown a statistically significant increase at most locations since 1979. This has been partially offset by declines in the frequency of events with wave heights between the 90 and 95th percentile. Seasonal extreme wave height frequency is also found to be related to the occurrence of El Niño. During El Niño winters, there are significantly fewer events with wave heights exceeding 2.5 m than would be expected by chance. A corresponding relationship to La Niña occurrence is not evident.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northeast Regional Climate Center, Department of Earth and Atmospheric ScienceCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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