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NOAA BUOY REPORTS RECORD WAVE HEIGHT
DURING HURRICANE IVAN

Oct. 13 — A 52-foot wave produced by Hurricane Ivan in the Gulf of Mexico last month was the highest wave reported in a hurricane according to records from NOAA's National Data Buoy Center (NDBC).

Buoy station 42040, operated by NDBC, was located about 75 miles south-southwest of Dauphin Island, Ala., when it reported the 52-foot wave at 6:50 p.m. CT on September 15. Hurricane Ivan later crossed the Alabama coast just west of Gulf Shores in the early morning hours of September 16 as a major Category 3 hurricane.

Undoubtedly, Hurricane Ivan produced unmeasured waves higher than 52 feet, according to NDBC scientists. Wave heights that buoys measure are the average of the highest third of the waves sampled during a 20-minute period. The single highest wave is typically 50 to 80 percent higher. Also, Ivan's eye passed east of the buoy, keeping the highest waves and winds to the east. Sustained winds at the buoy reached only 63 mph with gusts to 85 mph.

Ivan's towering wave exceeds those measured in other infamous storms. In 1969, Hurricane Camille produced a 44-foot wave by an oil rig near the storm's center.

Only two other buoy reports exceed the 52-foot mark set by Ivan, both of which occurred in the North Pacific where winter storms are larger than hurricanes and winds blowing across a longer distance create larger waves. The highest wave ever reported by an NDBC buoy was 55 feet and was measured south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands in 1991.

Media contacts:

Angela Strong- (228) 688-3844

Related Web sites:

National Data Buoy Center: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/
Details on Buoy 42040: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42040
National Hurricane Center Ivan Archives: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2004/IVAN.shtml?

 

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  Page last modified: 11-Mar-2010 9:35 AM