This page describes the mean wave characteristics for the Pacific region.

Back to the Regional Wave Atlas Page


The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on the planet. The waves that reach the tropical Pacific are a mix of swell that has travelled thousands of kilometres, waves that have been pushed by trade winds for hundreds of kilometres and locally generated wind waves. Each wave comes from its own area of generation, or source, from specific directions with various amount of energy and wave period. This source can be a large passing storm in the Tasman Sea or the onset of trade winds south of the equator. For the centre of the Pacific, more than 5 wave sources can be identified at any time (sometimes up to 12 sources). Other Oceans are too closed off or too small to see these many wave sources, which makes the Pacific Region one of the most complex wave climates on the planet. The figures below are meant to provide a simplification of this complexity and identify the dominant wave source for each locations.

Mean Significant Wave Height

This is the mean wave height and direction calculated for 30 years.

Mean Peak Wave Period

The value of the mean wave period shows what type of wave is dominant in a particular area. Mean wave period below 10s shows a dominance of wind waves (usually created by the trade winds) whereas a mean wave period above 10s is typical of an area dominated by swell waves (from the Southern Ocean or the North Pacific). Swells are blocked by islands and the lee side of the islands often display a "shadow" where the mean wave period is different.

Mean Wave Power

The mean wave power takes into account all the energy present in each wave source and provides an estimate of the value of the wave energy resource. Click the image to read more about the wave energy resource in the Pacific.

Wave Height Classification

Small waves and large waves mean something different whether you live in an area exposed to the waves or in a sheltered location. The figures below map what would be considered tiny, small, large and severe waves at different location in the Pacific.

Back to the Regional Wave Atlas Page