Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the coast of Teahupo’o in southern Tahiti, where you can find some of the heaviest waves in the world.
“Among surfers, the term ‘heavy’ can refer to any wave that is particularly dangerous. That includes waves that are literally heavy, heaving a crushing amount of water toward the shore and onto unlucky surfers,” reports ESA.
The image was captured on May 2, 2022 by the Operational Land Imager-2 (OLI) on Landsat 9. According to ESA, the waves at Teahupo’o tend to be the strongest from April to October.
“Winter storms originating in the Southern Ocean and the South Indian Ocean frequently move into the southwest Pacific Ocean basin. From there, large storm-generated swells can travel unimpeded toward the southern coast of Tahiti. Swells that approach Teahupo’o from the south or southwest are perfectly aligned to produce the area’s famously powerful barrel waves,” says ESA.
“But the legendary waves would not exist without equally perfect bathymetry. The seafloor around Tahiti rises quickly from about 5,000 feet deep at 3 miles from shore to just 1,000 feet deep at 0.3 miles from shore. As a result, southwesterly swells carry ample energy from the open ocean until they are very close to shore and crashing into the reef off Teahupo’o.”
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory