How are waves generated offshore of Barbados?

Barbados is affected primarily by waves generated by the following:

  • NE Trade Winds
  • North Atlantic Ocean Swells
  • Hurricane and Storm Activity

The figure below illustrates these three mechanisms of wave generation and their relative direction of approach to the island.

Wave Generation Mechanisms for Barbados

Source: Barbados Wave Climate Analysis, Baird and Associates (2003)

Long period swells originate from storm activity in the North Atlantic and propagate to the shoreline of Barbados . These waves, due to their long periods, 12 seconds and greater, have the tendency to wrap around the eastern shoreline and affect the south coast of the island.

The North East trade winds result from the pressure gradient that exists due to rising air at the equator. These trade winds that blow within the vicinity of Barbados cause locally generated seas.

Hurricanes and storms form over tropical waters (between 8° and 20° latitude) in areas of high humidity, light winds, and warm sea surface temperatures (typically 26.5°C or greater). These conditions usually prevail in the summer and early fall months of the tropical North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans and for this reason, hurricane 'season' in the northern hemisphere runs from June through November. These systems typically form east of Barbados and travel west, generally passing north of the island.