This blog provides commentary on interesting geological events occurring around the world in the context of my own work. This work is, broadly, geological fluid dynamics. The events that I highlight here are those that resonate with my professional life and ideas, and my goal is to interpret them in the context of ideas I've developed in my research. The blog does not represent any particular research agenda. It is written on a personal basis and does not seek to represent the University of Illinois, where I am a professor of geology and physics. Enjoy Geology in Motion! I would be glad to be alerted to geologic events of interest to post here! I hope that this blog can provide current event materials that will make geology come alive.

Banner image is by Ludie Cochrane..

Susan Kieffer can be contacted at s1kieffer at gmail.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Large Rogue Wave Detected by a Buoy

The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai
One of the most popular chapters in my book "The Dynamics of Disaster" is the chapter on rogue waves. BBC.com reported that the World Meteorological Organization reported a 19-meter (62.3 ft) wave that occurred on Feb. 4, 2013. The wave was driven by 50.4 mph winds. It was, according to the WMO, higher than the previous record of 18.275 meeters (59.96 ft). Both of these waves were in the North Atlantic.
      (Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wave of Kanagawa pictured to the left is not a tsunami, but a rogue wave.)
     I don't know if it's the WMO or CNN, but the claims that these are record breaking waves recorded by buoys seems erroneous. As I discussed in my book, waves near to or greater than 100' in height were recorded from the 1990's onward as more and more instruments were deployed in the oceans.  One wave of 100.7 feet height, and the struggle of a fishing boat, the Andrea Gail, with these waves became the basis for "The Perfect Storm" by Sebastian Junger and a 2000 box hit movie by Warner Brothers.
    Although not recorded by a buoy, but by a laser on a drilling platform in the North Sea, the famous Draupner Wave reached a trough-to-crest height of 86 feet. On most days, waves around the Draupner platform on which the laser device was mounted averaged 10 feet. On that day, the so-called significant wave height was 36-40 feet. From statistics, the maximum height for these conditions would have been about 66 feet, so the 86' high wave was quite the exception.
     In 2000, the European Space Agency (ESA0 tried to quantify the frequency and size of rogue waves. Within a year of the start of the effort, two boats, the Bremen and the Caledonian Star, were hit by waves at least 100' in height, and over three weeks around this time, the satellites spoted ten waves higher than 80'. Waves up to 100 feet tall are most commonly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Australia and near Cape Horn. The average likelihood of encountering waves exceeding 36' in height along the main shipping routes in the North Atlantic is about 1%/day!