Satellite observations of the ocean surface provide a powerful method for acquiring global data on wind speed and wave height. Radar altimeters have now been in operation for more than 25 years, providing a reasonably long term data set with global coverage. This paper presents data from a fully calibrated and validated altimeter dataset. The dataset provides the basis for obtaining a global perspective of a number of parameters critical to ocean engineering design, ship operations and global climate change. Analysis of the data provides ocean climatology of mean monthly values of wind speed and wave height useful for ship operations. The data set is also sufficiently long to provide extreme value (i.e. 100-year return period) estimates of wind speed and wave height. The paper presents such values and describes the approaches most appropriate to obtain statistically significant extreme value estimates from such satellite data. With a data set of this length, it is possible to investigate whether there have been statistically significant changes in the wind and wave climates over the period. Careful trend analysis of the extensive data set shows that there has been a statistically significant increasing trend in mean wind speed over the period. The corresponding increase in wave height is less clear. There is also evidence to suggest that extreme wind speeds and wave heights are increasing and the data set is analysed to investigate these trends. The paper clearly shows the value of this dataset and its application to a range of engineering problems.

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