Cold fronts in the Colombian Caribbean Sea and their relationship to extreme wave events
Extreme ocean waves in the Caribbean Sea are commonly related to the effects of storms and hurricanes during the months of June through November. The collapse of 200 m of the Puerto Colombia pier in March 2009 revealed the effects of meteorological phenomena other than storms and hurricanes that may be influencing the extreme wave regime in the Colombian Caribbean. The marked seasonality of these atmospheric fronts was established by analyzing the meteorological–marine reports of the Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales of Colombia (IDEAM, based on its initials in Spanish) and the Centro de Investigación en Oceanografía y Meteorología of Colombia (CIOH, based on its initials in Spanish) during the last 16 yr. The highest number of cold fronts was observed during the months of January, February, and March, with 6 fronts occurring per year. An annual trend was observed and the highest number of fronts occurred in 2010 (20 in total); moreover, an annual strong relationship between the maximum average wave values and the cold fronts in the central zone of the Colombian Caribbean during the first three months of the year was established. In addition, the maximum values of the significant height produced by the passage of cold fronts during the last 16 yr were identified.
Although the Colombian Caribbean has been affected by storms and hurricanes in the past, this research allows us to conclude that there is a strong relationship between cold fronts and the largest waves in the Colombian Caribbean during the last 16 yr, which have caused damage to coastal infrastructure. We verified that the passage of a cold front corresponded to the most significant extreme wave event of the last two decades in the Colombian Caribbean, which caused the structural collapse of the Puerto Colombia pier, located near the city of Barranquilla, between 5 and 10 March 2009. This information is invaluable when evaluating average and extreme wave regimes for the purpose of informing the design of structures in this region of the Caribbean.