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Surface wind waves are generated by wind forcing and are partitioned into two components, namely wind–sea (wind-forced waves propagating slower than surface wind) and swell (resulting from the wind–sea development and propagating typically faster than surface wind). Significant wave height (SWH) represents the measure of the wind wave field consisting of wind–sea and swell and is approximately equal to the highest one-third of wave heights. Local wind changes influence wind–sea properties, while changes in remote storms affect swell. Thus, patterns of wind wave and surface wind variability may differ because wind waves integrate wind properties over a larger domain. As wind waves integrate characteristics of atmospheric dynamics over a range of scales they potentially serve as an indicator of climate variability and change. Global and regional time series of wind waves characteristics are available from buoy data, Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) reports, satellite measurements and model wave hindcasts. No source is superior, as all have their strengths and weaknesses (Sterl and Caires, 2005; Gulev and Grigorieva, 2006; Wentz and Ricciardulli, 2011).

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