July 06, 2011

"Dude, keep missing those killer waves? Maybe 'rocket' science can help."

Nasa Jet Propulsion Lab "Surf forecasters are now using near real-time meteorological data from satellites to find big waves. With a click of a mouse, they can use the Internet to link to satellite sources like NASA's QuikScat satellite with its JPL SeaWinds Scatterometer, which provides data used for studying ocean circulation, forecasting weather and understanding air-sea interactions that control global climate." via Winds

'"We are using satellite data to study the global and coastal oceans in many different ways. Surfers are now using it too, including to figure out where to ride gigantic waves," said JPL oceanographer Ben Holt. "The skill and nerve needed to ride big waves is awe-inspiring."

'Space technology allows surf forecasters to access extensive information about the ocean, enabling them to pinpoint the exact location and time for an ideal surfing experience. For example, based in Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, Calif. there is a well-known big wave site called Mavericks. A group of surfers uses QuikScat data to help locate areas around the world where big waves will reach when they develop from growing weather systems like storms and hurricanes. Big weather systems mean big waves-some taller than 60 feet (18 meters)-that move so fast, surfers need to be towed in with jet skis just to catch them. Some surfers will do whatever is necessary to ride those waves, whether that means driving to another beach or packing up for a transatlantic journey.

'What exactly is a good wave? The best and biggest waves are products of intense, distant storms that generate heavy winds. At first these winds cause water to displace in a rippling effect. Blowing a powerful fan on a tub of water creates a similar effect. Winds that blow continuously for many days create many waves that eventually slam into one another and create what's known as "chop." With enough energy, these waves can accumulate and develop a large swell that travels faster and farther than smaller waves, away from the storm itself, and eventually makes it all the way to distant shores. A large, long swell is the driving force behind a large, sweet wave, built up by winds pushing several waves together. It's like a power surge of water-the wave true surfers dream about.'

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