Extreme ocean waves and climate change in the Gulf of Mexico

Extreme ocean waves and climate change in the Gulf of Mexico

Dr. Christian M. Appendini  | Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Campus Sisal - Yucatan, Institute of Engineering

Most extreme waves in the Gulf of Mexico result from either tropical cyclones or anticyclone systems known as Nortes. Waves from tropical cyclones sometimes have devastating consequences but a low rate of occurrence, while Nortes frequently occur during autumn/winter and generate waves that disrupt maritime activities. While current planning practices for maritime operations and marine infrastructure design standards are based on historical data, climate change will likely affect such conditions during the coming years and into the 22nd century. Most projections of General Circulation Models significantly underestimate the maximum wind speeds of tropical cyclones. Meanwhile, the short historical record and low frequency of tropical cyclones pose additional hindrances to the estimation of true return rates. This work analyzes waves from tropical cyclones based on synthetic events to overcome these limitations. The effect of climate change on structure design is illustrated by the 100-year return periods for the present and the future climates. For the Norte-driven waves, a method to identify events is presented, as well as a classification of events based on wave power. The assessment of the effects of climate change on the Norte-driven waves is accomplished by evaluating the change of frequency for the different types of Nortes. In conclusion, the study shows that the extreme wave climate in the Gulf of Mexico due to climate change is expected to be characterized by an intensification of the waves generated by tropical cyclones, a lower occurrence of intense events generated by Nortes, and an increased occurrence of mild Norte events. As such, the design of maritime structures should consider an intensification of the design waves, due to tropical cyclones, and the operational design maritime structures should consider a lower occurrence of extreme events as a result of Nortes.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
2:00 PM-3:00 PM


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Announcement Timing: 
September 6, 2017 to September 26, 2017
Calendar Timing: 
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm