Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: New Mexico, USA (Heron, Elephant Butte lakes); Arizona (Lake Pleasant)
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Re: Understanding wave information
My primitive, nicely over-simplified take:
I think of the significant wave height as the total of the base swell and the more recent wind waves, as a number to represent the slightly-higher-than-average wave.
Weekee: "In physical oceanography, the significant wave height is defined traditionally as the mean wave height of the highest third of the waves. ..."
The period gives you an idea of how close together the waves are. Shorter period = potentially steeper, more of a pain in the seat to sail.
I think of swells as more mellow, typically -- at least while they're still offshore.
So a lot of wind wave, moving fast, short wave period = better day for surfing than sailing.