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Massive wave in Atlantic Ocean smashes previous record

A wave measuring at over 62 feet high in the North Atlantic has broken the record for the tallest wave ever measured by a buoy, the World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday.

The 62.3-foot wave was recorded by a buoy back on Feb. 4, 2013, but has just been publicly reported for the first time. It occurred in the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the United Kingdom after a particularly strong cold front brought intense 50-mph  winds into the area.

“It is a remarkable record,” WMO Assistant Secretary-General Wenjian Zhang said in a statement. “It highlights the importance of meteorological and ocean observations and forecasts to ensure the safety of the global maritime industry and to protect the lives of crew and passengers on busy shipping lanes.”

Previously, the record was held by wave measuring 59.96 feet tall, which was detected on Dec. 8, 2007, also in the North Atlantic. The highest waves typically happen in those waters, where wind movement and atmospheric pressure tend to create intense storms. 

Low-tech buoys are still used to monitor the oceans in addition to ship-based measurements and satellite observations that point to potential hazards on the high seas.

“Oceans cover some 70 percent of the world’s surface. Ocean observations are therefore critical to understanding and forecasting our weather and climate,” Randall Cerveny, who works on the WMO’s team measuring climate and weather records, said in a statement.

The WMO, a collaboration between scientists from the U.S., U.K., Canada and Spain, measures climate extremes such as high and low temperatures, rainfall, heaviest hailstone, longest dry periods, and more.

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