22 May 2017

Massive wave recorded in Southern Ocean

From Morning Report, 8:10 am on 22 May 2017

A wave the height of a six-storey building in the Southern Ocean over the weekend could be the largest on record, and researchers expect their new buoy to record even bigger ones.

The Defence Force deploying the buoy in the Southern Ocean.

The Defence Force deploying the Southern Ocean wave buoy. Photo: NZDF

The monster 19.4m-high wave was measured by a new high-tech buoy, owned by science consultancy MetOcean Solutions, positioned south of the South Island.

MetOcean oceanographer Tom Durrant told Morning Report the storm that generated the wave was "not huge".

"So it was a big storm but not an unusually big storm," he said.

"These storms regularly sort of pulse around Antarctica - and in the Southern Ocean it's a fairly unique situation in that there's a large area of sea that's just unbroken by land that allows the waves to just build and build and build."

He said conditions in that area of the ocean were so extreme the waves would get bigger, and could exceed 25m.

MetOcean said it is the southern-most buoy in the world, and the data which was expected to help understanding of waves in the region, would be made freely available to the scientific community.