Dominant processes that amplify the swell towards the coast: the Nazaré Canyon and the giant waves




Portuguese Atlantic margin; Submarine canyons; Nazaré Canyon; Giant waves.


The Iberian Atlantic coast is typically featured by incisions that deeply affect the continental shelf, commonly known as submarine canyons. Among the submarine canyons located off the Portuguese Atlantic coast are the canyons of Porto, Aveiro, Nazaré and Lisboa-Setúbal, being of note the canyons of Nazaré and Lisboa-Setúbal for their dimensions, characteristics and dynamics. Nazaré is a small city located about 100 km north of Lisboa, known worldwide for the occurrence of recently surfed giant waves. The Nazaré Canyon is one of the largest submarine canyons in Europe. It is about 225 km long and 5000 m maximum depth, with several steep slopes. The present work aims to contribute to the general understanding of the canyon systems dynamics throughout the Portuguese Atlantic coast. The Nazaré Canyon and its giant swell are discussed. A brief description of the most recent giant waves surfed and listed in the Guinness book is also provided.


Antunes do Carmo, J. S. (2016). Processos Físicos e Modelos Computacionais em Engenharia Costeira, Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra (ed.), 452 p. ISBN 978-989-26-1152-5,

Antunes do Carmo, J. S. (2018). Climate change, adaptation measures and integrated coastal zone management: The new protection paradigm for the Portuguese coastal zone. Journal of Coastal Research, CERF, 34, 3, 687-703, 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-16-00165.1.

Antunes do Carmo, J. S. (2019). The changing paradigm of coastal management: The Portuguese case. Science of the Total Environment, 695, 133807, 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.133807.

Bosnic, I., Duarte, J., Taborda, R., Cascalho, J., Silva, A., Oliveira, A. (2014). Modelling nearshore dynamics at Norte beach (Nazareth). Proceedings from the 3as Jornadas de Engenharia Hidrográfica, Lisboa, Portugal, 24-26 June, 229-232. ISBN 978-989-705-073-2.

Canals, M., Casamor, J. L., Lastras, G., Monaco, A., Yepes, J. A., Berne, S., Loubrieu, B., Weaver, P. P. E., Grehan, A. J. & Dennielou, B. (2004). The Role of Canyons in Strata Formation. Oceanography, 17, 4, 80-91, 10.5670/oceanog.2004.06.

Corps of Engineers (1951). The Interpretation of Crossed Orthogonals in Wave Refraction Phenomena. Technical Memorandum No. 21.

Cunha, P. P. & Dinis, J. (1998). A erosão nas praias do Cabo Mondego à Figueira da Foz (Portugal centro-oeste), de 1995 a 1998. Territorium, 5, 31-50.

Cunha, P. P. & Gouveia, M. P. (2015). The Nazaré coast, the submarine canyon and the giant waves - a synthesis. Universidade de Coimbra, 33 p.

De Stigter, H. C., Jesus, C. C., Boer, W., Richter, T. O., Costa, A. & van Weering, T. C. E. (2011). Recent sediment transport and deposition in the Lisbon–Setúbal and Cascais submarine canyons, Portuguese continental margin. Deep-Sea Research Part II: Tropical Studies in Oceanography, 58, 23-24, 2321–2344, 10.1016/j.dsr2.2011.04.001.

Duarte-Santos, F., Mota-Lopes, A., Moniz, G., Ramos, L. & Taborda, R. (2017). Grupo de Trabalho do Litoral: Gestão da Zona Costeira: O desafo da mudança. Filipe Duarte Santos, Gil Penha-Lopes e António Mota Lopes (Eds). Lisboa, Portugal. ISBN: 978-989-99962-1-2.

Fletcher, in Mirror (2013). (

Garrett McNamara, in WIKIPEDIA (2022). Available online:

Gomes, M., Santos, L., Pinho, J. L. S. & Antunes do Carmo, J. S. (2018). Hazard assessment of storm events for the Portuguese northern coast. Geosciences, MDPI, 8, 5, 14p., 10.3390/geosciences8050178).

Guerreiro, C., Oliveira, A. & Rodrigues, A. (2009). Shelf-break canyons versus “Gouf” canyons: a comparative study based on the silt-clay mineralogy of bottom sediments from Oporto, Aveiro and Nazaré submarine canyons (NW off Portugal). Proceedings from the International Coastal Symposium (ICS), Lisboa, Portugal, 13-18 April, Pereira da Silva, C., Ed., CERF, Durham, North Carolina, USA. In Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 56, 722 – 726.

Guinness World Records (2012).:

Harris, P. T. & Baker, E. K. (2011). Seafloor Geomorphology - Coast, Shelf, and Abyss. In Seafloor Geomorphology as Benthic Habitat, 1st ed., Elsevier: London, UK, and Waltham, USA, 936p. ISBN 978-0-12-385140-6,

Harris, P. T. & Whiteway, T. (2011). Global distribution of large submarine canyons: Geomorphic differences between active and passive continental margins. Marine Geology, 285, 69-86.

Kaushik Patomary (2015). The Monster Waves at Nazare, Portugal:

Largest wave surfed (unlimited) – male (2020).

Masek J. G. (2022), in NASA Official, Landsat Image Gallery. Available online: (accessed on 14 July 2022).

Masson, D. G., Huvenne, V. A. I., de Stigter, H. C., Arzola, R. G. & LeBas, T.P. (2011). Sedimentary processes in the middle Nazaré Canyon. Deep-Sea Research Part II: Tropical Studies in Oceanography, 58, 23-24, 2369–2387, 10.1016/j.dsr2.2011.04.003.

Miranda, P.M., Coelho, F.E., Tomé, A.R., Valente, M.A., Carvalho, A., Pires, C. & Ramalho, C. (2002). Chapter 2—20th Century Portuguese Climate and Climate Scenarios. In Climate Change in Portugal: Scenarios Impacts and Adaptation Measures (SLAM Project), Santos, F.D., Forbes, K., Moita, R., Eds., Gradiva: Lisboa, Portugal, pp. 23–83.

NASA, Earth Observatory (2022). Monster Waves of Nazaré.

Nazare North Canyon (2022).

NOAA (2022). Historical hurricane tracks.

Normark, W. R. & Carlson, P. R. (2003). Giant submarine canyons: Is size any clue to their importance in the rock record? In Extreme depositional environments: mega end members in geologic time, Special Paper 370, 175-190, Geological Society of America, USA, 10.1130/0-8137-2370-1.175.

Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 (2022).

Pinto, C. A., Silveira, T. & Teixeira, S. B. (2018). Artificial feeding of beaches on the coast of mainland Portugal: Framework and retrospective of interventions carried out (1950-2017), Technical Report, 10.13140/RG.2.2.24446.48969.

Portuguese Hydrographic Institute (2022).

Records and Brief history of Nazaré waves (2022).

Rosa-Santos, P., Veloso-Gomes, F., Taveira-Pinto, F., Silva, R. & Pais-Barbosa, J. (2009). Evolution of coastal works in Portugal and their interference with local morphodynamics. Proceedings from the International Coastal Symposium (ICS), Lisboa, Portugal, 13-18 April, Pereira da Silva, C. Ed. CERF, Durham, North Carolina, USA. In Journal of Coastal Research, Special. Issue 56, 757–761.

Santos, L., Gomes, M., Vieira, L., Pinho, J. L. S. & Antunes do Carmo, J. S. (2018). Storm surge assessment methodology based on numerical modelling. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Hydrodynamics (HIC 2018), Palermo, Italy, 01-06 July 2018. In EPiC Series in Engineering, La Loggia, G., Freni, G., Puleo, V., De Marchis, M., Eds. 3, 1876-1884. ISSN: 2516-2330,

Silva, A. N., Taborda, R., Antunes, C., Catalão, J. & Duarte, J. (2013). Undersanding the coastal variability at Norte beach, Portugal. Proceedings 12th International Coastal Symposium, Plymouth, England, 8-12 April. In Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 65, 2, 2173-2178. ISSN 0749-0208.

Slingerland R., Harbaugh J. W. & Furlong K. P. (1994). Simulating clastic sedimentary basins, PTR Prentice Hall, Englewood Clifs, New Jersey, Sedimentary Geology Series. ISBN 0-13-814054-5.

The Two-Way, Portugal’s Monster: The Mechanics of a Massive Wave (2013).

Tyler, P., Amaro, T., Arzola, R., Cunha, M. R., de Stigter, H., Gooday, A., Huvenne, V., Ingels, J., Kiriakoulakis, K., Lastras, G., Masson, D., Oliveira, A., Pattenden, A., Vanreusel, A., Van Weering, T., Vitorino, J., Witte, U. & Wolff, G. (2009). Europe’s grand canyon: Nazaré submarine canyon. Oceanography, 22, 1, 46-57, 2009.05.

Valter Leandro (2022). Lisboa Secreta.

Vitorino, J., Oliveira, A., Jouanneau, J. M. & Drago, T. (2002). Winter dynamics on the northern Portuguese shelf. Part 1: physical processes. Prog. in Oceanography, 52, 2-4, 129-153, 10.1016/S0079-6611(02)00003-4.

Weaver, P. P. E. & Canals, M. (2003). The Iberian and Canaries Margin including NW Africa. In Europen Margin Sediment Dynamics: Side-Scan Sonar and Seismic Images, Mienert, J., Weaver, P., Eds., Springer: Berlin, Germany, 251-260. ISBN 3-540-42391-1, 10.1007/978-3-642-55846-7.

WSL (2018).

Würtz, M. (2012). Mediterranean Submarine Canyons: Ecology and Governance. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland and Málaga, Spain, 211 p. ISBN: 978-2-8317-1469-1.




How to Cite

CARMO, J. S. A. do . Dominant processes that amplify the swell towards the coast: the Nazaré Canyon and the giant waves. Research, Society and Development, [S. l.], v. 11, n. 11, p. e578111133804, 2022. DOI: 10.33448/rsd-v11i11.33804. Disponível em: Acesso em: 6 oct. 2022.



Teaching and Education Sciences