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Monster waves pounding to the west coast. Here is why.

A National Weather Service image shows a wave cresting over the top of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, which sits off the coast of Oregon and has its light 134 feet (41 meters) above sea level.
(NWS Portland)

Cyclonic winds, rush in Alaska had nothing else to batter against, so they jumped into the water in miles and miles of open ocean. The wind pushed and the ground lifted from the waves, making them larger, more durable and more powerful. By the time these waves reach the AMERICAN coast, they are huge, that the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue high-surf warnings up and down the West Coast early Sunday (Dec. 16) and in many cases still in operation up in the afternoon today (Dec. 18).

In a tweet from NWS San Francisco, forecasters warned any adventurous Californians, “STAY WELL BACK FROM the OCEAN OR RISK CERTAIN DEATH.”

This wind, wrote Marshall Shepherd, director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences program and a weather-science writer for Forbes, is the result of a low-pressure system in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska. In the Northern Hemisphere, he explained, the wind swirls counter-clockwise around systems. Due to the location of the low pressure system, winds can build up enormous waves over hundreds of kilometers before ramming them to the West Coast. These wind driven waves can grow to tens of meters high, although they are not to drive themselves in the interior, such as the tsunami waves of comparable height. [Hurricanes from Above: See Nature’s Biggest Storms]

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The hardest-hit areas, according to The Washington Post, in the vicinity of San Francisco, where the waves have reached 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters), but the water is dangerous north-places in the state of Washington and as far south as Los Angeles.

Dangers, Shepherd wrote, to extend to activities outside of actually playing or surfing these monster waves. Just go near the water, playing on the rocks, jetties, or beaches, would put people at risk of being swept into the turbulent sea by a particularly large wave, Shepherd wrote. And that cold, rough water, he wrote, can lead to “cardiac arrest and involuntary gasp reflex that lead to drowning.”

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Originally published on Live Science.

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