Mon, 27 January 2020

If we think Cape Town gets fierce storms and big waves, how's Storm Gloria that savaged Spain last week with the largest waves ever recorded in the Mediterranean, writes Spike.

The Spanish ports authority has been reported as saying that on Monday last week (January 20), they measured the largest significant wave height in recorded history in the landlocked Mediterranean. A reading of 8.44 metres (27.69 feet) was taken by deep sea buoys off Valencia, Spain, breaking the previous record of 8.15 metres (26.73 feet) in 2003 at Mahón, Menorca.

Significant wave height is an average taken from the top one third of wave heights measured in a given sea state. Individual waves can reach up to double that size. Wave models suggest that Gloria produced waves of up to 13.5 metres (44.29 feet) after the storm moered the Spanish coast, sending huge spumes of spray inland and battering promenades, walkways and other structures.

It has been reported that Alicante airport was forced to close due to snow. Thirteen lives have been lost, with four missing, and weather alerts were triggered in more than 30 provinces of Spain. The BBC reported that massive waves forced residents to evacuate while rivers burst their banks and boats were torn from their moorings and washed on to beaches.

"The storm then struck Catalonia, Valencia and the southern regions of Murcia and Andalusia with rain and snow, leaving a trail of damage in popular tourist resorts busy preparing for the holiday season," the BBC said, adding that "on Thursday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez flew over some of the worst hit eastern areas and visited Majorca which has been battered by huge waves".

These waves may not seem too impressive when compared to some stormseas we get off the Cape of Storms. Remember the 20.5 metre wave recorded in 1978 and the Kommetjie Wavenet buoy measuring one of more than 17 metres in more recent years?

However, we are used to giant seas in winter, and we have the structures in place to withstand the fury of the ocean. Coastal areas in the Mediterranean are not reinforced to the same magnititude. The holiday island of Majorca in Spain’s Balearic Islands, and Platja de la Mar Bella, in Barcelona, bore the brunt of Gloria, with torrential rain whipped up by winds of 100km/h.

Storm Gloria_20012020

MAROON MAYHEM: The dark red represents the highest waves in this screengrab of a wave model.

The deepsea buoy Dragonera (Balearic Islands) recorded a historical maximum since it was put into operation in 2006, registering 7.97 meters (26.14 feet) of significant wave height at 3am last Monday. The previous record from the buoy was 6.33 metres (20.76 feet), measured in January 2017. The highest individual wave height measured by Dragonera was 14.2 meters (46.58 feet).

Still pretty big though, you have to say.

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