The Highest significant wave height of 19 meters (62.3 feet) measured by a buoy in the North Atlantic has been certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) expert committee as a new world record significant wave height. The wave was taller than a six-storey building. It was recorded by an automated buoy at 0600 UTC on 4th February 2013 in the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the United Kingdom (approximately 59° N, 11° W).  According to WMO Expert committee, this wave was due to the passage of a very strong cold front, which produced winds of up to 43.8 knots (50.4 miles per hour) over the area.

Representational Image. (Source: REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich)

The previous record of 18.275 meters (59.96 feet) was measured on 8th December 2007, also in the North Atlantic. The WMO Commission for Climatology’s Extremes Evaluation Committee classified it as“the highest significant wave height as measured by a buoy”. The Committee consisted of scientists from the United Kingdom, Britain, Canada, the United States of America and Spain.

“This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record,” said WMO Assistant Secretary-General Wenjian Zhang. “It highlights the importance of meteorological and ocean observations and forecasts to ensure the safety of the global maritime industry and to protect the lives of crew and passengers on busy shipping lanes,” he said. Dr. Zhang also recognized the need for high quality and extensive ocean records to help in our understanding of weather/ocean interactions. He further said that, “despite the huge strides in satellite technology, the sustained observations and data records from moored and drifting buoys and ships still play a major role in this respect”.

The new world record will be added to the official WMO archive of weather and climate extremes which is being constantly updated and expanded thanks to continued improvements in instrumentation, technology and analysis. 

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