The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river that pummeled Northern California in late October produced exceptionally heavy rain and high winds. But it also battered the California coast with some epic ocean waves. During the storm, peak individual wave heights of as much as 60 feet were measured from Washington to California, according to researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
For example, the No. 29 Point Reyes buoy, located in 1,805 feet of water 25 miles west of Point Reyes, recorded a significant wave height of 30.6 feet on Oct. 25. That’s the second-largest wave event in that buoy’s 23 years of recording data. Only in December 2015, an El Niño year, did it record bigger waves.
Significant wave height is calculated by averaging the height of the biggest one-third of waves during a 30-minute period, according to James Behrens, a program manager at the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP). Typically, some individual waves at a given station can jack up to as much as twice that average, and the Point Reyes buoy recorded a maximum individual wave height of 50.5 feet.
To the north, the No. 179 buoy off Astoria, Ore., recorded significant wave heights of 35 feet, with individual waves slightly over 60 feet. This set a record for the station, which came online in 2011.
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