This page describes the extreme wave event that occurred in May 2011.
The inundation of May 20th 2011 along a 50km section of the coral coast in Fiji Islands caused minor damages to infrastructure such as roads, buildings seawalls and erosion of beaches. The inundation which coincided with spring high tides was caused by a distant high pressure system some 3-4 thousand kilometres away which generated surface gravity waves. The average inundation was 40.5 m as surveyed by SOPAC/SPC. Other Pacific Island countries were affected by this swell event as well. Swells produced by distant storms have the potential of travelling distances sometimes greater than 20,000km. These swells travel for days and although their height is reduced over the distance travelled, they still maintain their power. These waves are not a problem in deeper water put become a potential threat as they approach and break into shallow water with high energy.
The animation below shows the swell generated from a high pressure system. The top maps show the evolution of the waves generated at the regional scale while the bottom graph shows the evolution of the wave through time at 5 locations; Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and New Caledonia.