Wind-generated ocean swells not so swell

European Space Agency has used newly created tracking software to chart the progress of the swells that devastated Reunion Island.

Volcanoes of the Western Indian Ocean U.S. Geological Survey

You may have missed this on your favorite blog site, and you definitely missed this if you looked at American TV news. Reunion Island got smashed on Saturday. Big waves. Lots of damage. It was not a tsunami this time. Certainly earthquakes can pack an enormous wallop, but the supporters of wind power surely have something going as well.

The European Space Agency (ESA) satellites were tracking the course of the big swells. Ocean swells, not rich guys with big heads. Big, really big waves. Some that slammed into Reunion without warning were over 35 feet high.

First, the satellite noted the very strong winds along the cape, just off South Africa. The map shows Reunion east of Madagascar. And that is the direction the ocean swells were pushed. It took the waves three days to go from Cape Town's coast to Reunion's flat beaches. You can see on the map where Reunion lies east of Africa. To be precise it is just over 100 miles from Mauritius. See. And, of course, they have their own active volcano according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Map of wind-driven swells European Space Agency

The ESA used newly created tracking software to map the progress of the wind-created swells. This time it didn't help Reunion in advance. But the ESA says this is a first step toward coming up with effective means of real-time tracking and an alert system. The Reunionites will be pleased.

Why, you are sure to ask, is the ESA worried about little Reunion? Well, it's a tropical paradise, I'm told. And those Northern Europeans love any place where they can find sunshine. Second, little Reunion and its citizens are officially a department of France and members of the European Union.

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    Harry Fuller escaped from television work to be executive editor at CNET News.com.

     

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