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Decadal variations in wave heights off Cape Kelba, Saaremaa Island, and their relationships with changes in wind climate

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Based on wind data from the Vilsandi meteorological station and a 5-month calibration measurement with a bottom-mounted Recording Doppler Current Profiler (RDCP), a semi-empirical hindcast of wave parameters near the quickly developing accumulative Kelba Spit is presented for the period 1966-2006. The significant wave heights with a gross mean value of 0.56 m exhibited some quasiperiodic cycles, with the last high stage in 1980-95 and a decreasing overall trend of -0.001 m per year. At the same time, both the frequency and intensity of high wave events showed rising trends, and the mean wave heights during winter (December to February) increased as well. As the study area has the longest fetches in westerly directions, the discussed tendencies in wave conditions are sensitive to regional changes in the wind climate and can be related to a decrease in the local average wind speed on the one hand, but an intensification of westerly winds, storm events and the wintertime NAO index on the other. The roughest wave storms on record were associated with prominent W-storms on 2 November 1969 and 9 January 2005; a few other extreme wind events (e.g. in 1967, 1999, 2001), however, did not yield equally prominent waves.
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