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December 15, 2016

6-story-high wave sets world record for 'significant' height

The monster of monster waves has been recognized by the World Meteorological Organization.

The behemoth, measured at 62.3 feet high by an automated buoy in the North Atlantic, sets a new world record for "significant" wave height.

The wave, recorded at 1 p.m. EST on February 4, 2013 between Iceland and the United Kingdom, followed a strong cold front in the area with winds of up to 50.4 miles per hour, a WMO expert committee announced earlier this week.

The previous record wave was 59.96 feet, measured on December 8, 2007, also in the North Atlantic.

(The biggest wave ever recorded was in the United States. In 1958, a landslide triggered by an earthquake in remote Lituya Bay in Alaska produced a 100-foot wave. Nearly 60 years later, it remains the tallest tsunami ever recorded.)

WMO experts noted the North Atlantic buoy measured "significant" wave height – pretty much what "an observer would have seen if he averaged over 15-20 waves passing by the buoy."

So this was no "rogue wave."

According to the National Weather Service, on average, about 15 percent of waves observed over a period of time will equal or exceed the significant wave height. The highest 10 percent of waves could be 25-30 percent higher than the significant wave height. And on occasion (about one per hour) there is a wave nearly twice the significant wave height.

The committee was composed of scientists from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Spain.