A long-term nearshore wave hindcast for Ireland: Atlantic and Irish Sea coasts (1979–2012)

Present wave climate and energy resource assessment


The Northeast Atlantic possesses some of the highest wave energy levels in the world. The recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in harnessing this vast energy potential. Due to the complicated geomorphology of the Irish coast, there can be a significant variation in both the wave and wind climate. Long-term hindcasts with high spatial resolution, properly calibrated against available measurements, provide vital information for future deployments of ocean renewable energy installations. These can aid in the selection of adequate locations for potential deployment and for the planning and design of those marine operations. A 34-year (from 1979 to 2012), high-resolution wave hindcast was performed for Ireland including both the Atlantic and Irish Sea coasts, with a particular focus on the wave energy resource. The wave climate was estimated using the third-generation spectral wave model WAVEWATCH III®; version 4.11, the unstructured grid formulation. The wave model was forced with directional wave spectral data and 10-m winds from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) ERA-Interim reanalysis, which is available from 1979 to the present. The model was validated against available observed satellite altimeter and buoy data, particularly in the nearshore, and was found to be excellent. A strong spatial and seasonal variability was found for both significant wave heights, and the wave energy flux, particularly on the north and west coasts. A strong correlation between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) teleconnection pattern and wave heights, wave periods, and peak direction in winter and also, to a lesser extent, in spring was identified.

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This study was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the research project “High-end computational modelling for wave energy systems” and by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) through the Renewable Energy Research Development & Demonstration Programme. The ESB, Met Éireann, the Marine Institute and Shell provided the buoy data for validation. The INFOMAR bathymetric datasets were provided by the Geological Survey Ireland (GSI) and the Marine Institute. The VORF software for tidal datum conversions was obtained from the GSI. The UKHO bathymetry was provided by OceanWise Ltd. The altimeter-derived wave data was obtained from the Centre de Recherche et d’Exploitation Satellitaire (CERSAT), at Ifremer, Plouzané, France in the frame of the Globwave project, funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). The authors thank Dr. C. Sweeney and Prof. P. Lynch (UCD School of Mathematical Sciences) for very helpful discussions, Dr. F. Ardhuin (Ifremer) for his advice regarding the WAVEWATCH code, and M. Béchereau and P. Sweeney for their help with the construction of the DEM. Finally, the numerical simulations were performed on the Stokes cluster at the Irish Centre for High-end Computing (ICHEC) and at the Swiss National Computing Centre under the PRACE DECI 10 project “Nearshore wave climate analysis of the west coast of Ireland”.

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Correspondence to Sarah Gallagher.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on the 13th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting in Banff, Alberta, Canada October 27 - November 1, 2013

Responsible Editor: Oyvind Breivik

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Gallagher, S., Tiron, R. & Dias, F. A long-term nearshore wave hindcast for Ireland: Atlantic and Irish Sea coasts (1979–2012). Ocean Dynamics 64, 1163–1180 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10236-014-0728-3

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  • Hindcast
  • Wave climate
  • Marine renewable energy
  • Interannual variability
  • Teleconnection patterns
  • Ireland