Projected changes of the southwest Australian wave climate under two atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration pathways

Moritz Wandres, Charitha Pattiaratchi, Mark A. Hemer

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    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Incident wave energy flux is responsible for sediment transport and coastal erosion in wave-dominated regions such as the southwestern Australian (SWA) coastal zone. To evaluate future wave climates under increased greenhouse gas concentration scenarios, past studies have forced global wave simulations with wind data sourced from global climate model (GCM) simulations. However, due to the generally coarse spatial resolution of global climate and wave simulations, the effects of changing offshore wave conditions and sea level rise on the nearshore wave climate are still relatively unknown. To address this gap of knowledge, we investigated the projected SWA offshore, shelf, and nearshore wave climate under two potential future greenhouse gas concentration trajectories (representative concentration pathways RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). This was achieved by downscaling an ensemble of global wave simulations, forced with winds from GCMs participating in the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP5), into two regional domains, using the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) wave model. The wave climate is modeled for a historical 20-year time slice (1986–2005) and a projected future 20-year time-slice (2081–2100) for both scenarios. Furthermore, we compare these scenarios to the effects of considering sea-level rise (SLR) alone (stationary wave climate), and to the effects of combined SLR and projected wind-wave change. Results indicated that the SWA shelf and nearshore wave climate is more sensitive to changes in offshore mean wave direction than offshore wave heights. Nearshore, wave energy flux was projected to increase by ∼10% in exposed areas and decrease by ∼10% in sheltered areas under both climate scenarios due to a change in wave directions, compared to an overall increase of 2–4% in offshore wave heights. With SLR, the annual mean wave energy flux was projected to increase by up to 20% in shallow water (< 30 m) as a result of decreased wave dissipation. In winter months, the longshore wave energy flux, which is responsible for littoral drift, is expected to increase by up to 39% (62%) under the RCP4.5 (RCP8.5) greenhouse gas concentration pathway with SLR. The study highlights the importance of using high-resolution wave simulations to evaluate future regional wave climates, since the coastal wave climate is more responsive to changes in wave direction and sea level than offshore wave heights.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)70-87
    Number of pages18
    JournalOcean Modelling
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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