Big Weather Equals Big Surf

As we gear up for a vicious 2015-2016 El Niño winter, we have already seen reports of spectacular waves hitting the coast of California and elsewhere.

In some places, the large waves are luring surfers to test the limits of their abilities and chase that elusive adrenaline.

Even more unusual are those who seek out waves in extreme environments like Antarctica.

Wave sets
Multiple wave sets in the rough South African surf.

The waves that come with this El Niño will demand respect and only those individuals who are truly prepared can handle the magnitude of some of these giant waves or risk disaster.

While big waves leave us in awe and wonder, we often neglect to understand what they represent in terms of traveling energy and the mechanics of how waves come about in the first place.

The waves we experience on the coast are a result of numerous factors that involve wind, sea floor depth, and coastal geometry that enables them to reflect, refract and diffract around objects. In any given location on any given day, the recipe for generating different wave types is complex and may change over time as the environment is altered.

The video below gives a brief introduction to waves from the minute capillary waves to the unusual rogue waves.

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