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Bigger waves = a high tide of news coverage

Posted January 29th, 2010 by simmonto

Coastal Engineering isn’t a journal that one usually associates with big science news headlines. But when OSU geosciences faculty member Peter Ruggiero published a study there this month that detailed the growing average height of waves off the Oregon coast, what followed was a virtual tsunami of coverage.

Outlets ranging from to Oregon Public Broadcasting to United Press International jumped on the study (put forth expertly by OSU senior science writer David Stauth in a Jan. 15 news release), which revealed that the biggest waves are now as high as 46 feet, up from 33 feet as recently as 1996.

“Possible causes might be changes in storm tracks, higher winds, more intense winter storms, or other factors,” Ruggiero told Stauth. “These probably are related to global warming, but could also be involved with periodic climate fluctuations such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and our wave records are sufficiently short that we can’t be certain yet. But what is clear is the waves are getting larger.”

OSU scientists like Ruggiero continue to play leading roles in academic research regarding climate change, as well as coastal and marine science, particularly when it comes to interpreting issues related to the Pacific Ocean.

The colleges of Science and Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences are homes to most, but the expertise isn’t limited to them. Bruce Mate, an internally recognized whale expert and director of the OSU Marine Mammal Institute, for instance, holds the Marine Mammal Research Professorship in the College of Agricultural Sciences, where he’s a member of the renowned Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife (the department is ranked no. 1 nationally in wildlife science and no. 2 in fisheries science, while OSU overall is ranked tops nationally in conservation biology).

All of which means, when stories such as this pop up at OSU, media typically take note. And that makes our jobs not only easier, but tremendously rewarding.

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