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The Largest Wave Ever In The Southern Hemisphere

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/11/2018 Dana Dovey

The largest wave to form in the southern hemisphere was recorded Tuesday in the Southern Ocean off the coast of New Zealand. The behemoth measured 78 feet and washed ashore at Campbell Island. An expert suggests the monster wave may not be an anomaly and future storms may bring even larger waves.

The wave was recorded by a buoy floating in the remote Southern Ocean, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The wave is believed to be the largest ever documented in the southern hemisphere, beating out the previous biggest wave, a 72 foot wave that was recorded in Tasmania in 2012, The BBC reported. However, exact wave heights are hard to keep record of as the World Meteorological Organization does not hold numbers on individual wave heights but rather the average of swells, wave movements in the ocean.

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Larger single waves have been recorded in the northern hemisphere. According to the Smithsonian Ocean Portal, the largest ever recorded wave occurred in the North Atlantic ocean in 1995, and at its peak reached 84 feet.

The most recent Southern Ocean wave is cause for excitement, or perhaps concern, as MetService senior oceanographer Tom Durrant, the meteorological service of New Zealand, told The BBC that 78 feet may not even be an accurate description of the wave’s ultimate height. The wave measuring device only records for 20 minutes every three hours, meaning that there are large amounts of time when no measurements were taken. In addition, Durrant hypothesized that bigger waves may come with future storms.

"Assuming climate models are correct about stronger storms, then we can expect bigger waves as well," Durrant said, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Anyone who’s visited the coast has likely seen a wave first hand, but these ocean movements don’t just occur near the shore and can be seen in even the most remote parts of our planet’s oceans. Waves are caused by winds transferring energy to the water, and the wave’s size depends on how fast the wind is blowing, how long the wind lasts, and the size of the area that the wind is blowing.

Rogue waves are waves that form during storms far out at sea. Scientists still aren’t sure exactly what causes these massive waves to form, but believe they may be result of multiple ocean swells coming into contact and reinforcing each other, the Smithsonian reported. Rogue waves differ from tsunamis, which as caused by a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a landslide.


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