Spaceborne altimeters measure sea surface height first and foremost, but we can also obtain other physical parameters using satellite altimetry techniques. One such example is wave height, which is of prime importance to marine weather forecasters and ships at sea. Wave height can be derived by looking at how the sea surface reflects the radar signal.
Example of a southern swell occured in the Reunion Island (Indian Ocean). This phenomenon is due to an heavy storm around 40°S (the famous 'roaring forties'), South of Africa. The storm engendered swell, which propagated in the Indian Ocean at about 1000 km/day, in a region where low winds do not disrupt the swell.
They are mostly individual waves of exceptional height and/or abnormal shape which cannot be detected with altimetry, as it averages measurements over several square kilometers. But studies try to link the occurrence of such waves to some sea state properties.
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