Scientists Record 800-Foot Undersea Wave

Skyscraper-size waves can take an hour to break: study

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 11, 2013 6:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – Amazing, terrifying, or some combination of both? Scientists have recorded an 800-foot wave breaking at the bottom of the ocean for the first time, Nature World News reports. That's the size of a skyscraper, and these waves can take as long as an hour to break. University of Washington researchers went to the Samoan Passage, a narrow South Pacific Ocean channel that Nature World News and Science Daily refer to as a "bottleneck." That's where dense Antarctic waters funnel through and collide with water of a different density; the surge forms the huge underwater waves.

"Basically the entire South Pacific flow is blocked by this huge submarine ridge," says the lead researcher. "The amount of water that's trying to get northward through this gap is just tremendous—6 million cubic meters of water per second, or about 35 Amazon Rivers." The team detected a wave breaking some three miles underneath the surface, producing a huge amount of turbulence and as much as 10,000 times more water mixing than is seen in adjacent waters. This is an important factor in ocean circulation; these waves shuttle heat, energy, carbon, and nutrients about the globe. (Click for another wild undersea discovery.)

OK, so they don't look quite like this.
OK, so they don't look quite like this.   (Shutterstock)
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