Reliable return period estimates of sea state parameters such as the significant wave height is of great importance in marine structural design and ocean engineering. Hence, time series of significant wave height have been extensively studied in recent years. However, with the possibility of an ongoing change in the global climate, this might influence the ocean wave climate as well and it would be of great interest to analyze long time series to see if any long-term trends can be detected.
In this paper, long time series of significant wave height stemming from the ERA-40 reanalysis project, containing 6-hourly data over a period of more than 44 years are investigated with the purpose of identifying long term trends. Different time series analysis methods are employed, i.e. seasonal ARIMA, multiple linear regression, the Theil-Sen estimator and generalized additive models, and the results are discussed. These results are then compared to previous studies; in particular results are compared to a recent study where a spatio-temporal stochastic model was applied to the same data. However, in the current analysis, the spatial dimension has been reduced and spatial minima, mean and maxima have been analysed for temporal trends.
Overall, increasing trends in the wave climate have been identified by most of the modelling approaches explored in the paper, although some of the trends are not statistically significant at the 95% level. Based on the results presented in this paper, it may be argued that there is evidence of a roughening trend in the recent ocean wave climate, and more detailed analyses of individual months and seasons indicate that these trends might be mostly due to trends during the winter months.