The 19 metre (62.3 foot) wave was around the height of a six-storey building, or four double-decker buses. It was recorded by an automated buoy deep in the North Atlantic, around 350 km north-west of the Scottish mainland and 620 km southeast of Iceland. The measurements were picked up in February 2013 but have only just been announced. The wave followed the passage of a very strong front of cold air which produced winds of up to 50 mph. The 19 metre ‘significant wave height’ beats a 2007 record of 18.25 metres, which was also set in the North Atlantic.
The term ‘significant wave height’ refers to the distance between the peak of one wave and the trough of the next, measured as an average of the highest one-third of waves in a spell – meaning the wave was not a one-off but one of a sequence of giants. “This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 metres. It is a remarkable record,” said World Meteorological Organisation deputy chief Wenjian Zhang. “It highlights the importance of meteorological and ocean observations and forecasts to ensure the safety of the global maritime industry.” Moored and drifting buoys are a vital part of the network observing the oceans, along with satellite observations and ship-based measurements.
A photo posted by Naomi Hicks (@hiiickz) on Dec 12, 2016 at 8:34am PST
The North Atlantic is home to the world’s biggest waves, particularly in winter, when weather patterns can create intense storms, nicknamed ‘bombs’. No passenger ferries travel between Britain and Iceland, although it is possible to travel from Iceland or Denmark to the Faroe Isles.