The ocean storm index estimates the number of days in a year when wind speeds exceed gale and storm force on the Beaufort Scale. In a gale, sea conditions are rough and waves can be over six metres high. In a storm, waves can be over 10 metres high. To put this into context, on land a near gale would make walking difficult, and a storm would cause some damage to roofs, chimneys, and trees. Climate change could lead to changes in the frequency and intensity of storms. More frequent and intense storms will likely be a stressor for habitats and species.
The ocean storm index estimates the number of days that wind speeds exceed gale and storm force on the Beaufort Scale. The Beaufort Scale is a widely used international classification that rates sea conditions from 0 (calm) to 12 (hurricane). We report on estimated wind speeds broken down to:
- gales – measure 8 on the scale, have rough sea conditions with wind speeds of approximately 62–74 km per hour and wave heights of 5.5 metres
- storms – measure 10 on the scale, have wind speeds of approximately 89–102 km per hour and wave heights of 9–11.5 metres (McDonald & Parsons, 2016)