Despite the fact that we took to the sea sometime between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago depending on which sources you consult, we’ve still not improved out sailing capabilities all that much. Sure, we have sonars, huge, strong ships, and even ways to keep from sinking, but we still can’t protect ourselves against the forces of nature.
One of the (literally) biggest issues we’re still facing is the sudden appearance of rogue waves – waves about 8 times the height of the surrounding sea, that seem to form out of nowhere. In their attempt to figure out how they form, a team from MIT developed an algorithm to detect rogue waves.
Reaching as high as 95 feet (around 29 meters) or even higher, rogue waves are still a constant, albeit rarely occurring threat to sailors and to coastal towns. They are also known as killer waves, monster waves, etc…, as they can appear with no signs of warning on even the clearest days and wreak havoc all around them.
The force of these rogue waves is so huge that they can destroy even the largest ocean liners and ships. Up until this point, there was no way of predicting when a rogue wave was going to form, despite the best efforts of multiple teams of scientists.
The team of researchers from MIT decided that since they yielded no results, the old ways of attempting to predict these forces of destruction were incorrect. Eventually, they realized that the smaller waves sort of “talk” to each other, exchanging energy in a dynamic context which heralds the arrival of the enormous rogue waves.
Feeling the wave
Previously, scientists have attempted to simulate each and every wave in a body of water in order to get a high resolution picture of the state the sea was in. Since this repeatedly proved inaccurate and a waste of time and resources, the MIT team decided to go a different route.
They realized that smaller waves occasionally formed a cluster, trading energy with one another until one becomes big enough. Using this data along with previously collected data on wave dynamics, the team of researchers managed to quantify the possibility of waves forming in a body of water.
With this, they developed a simple and quick algorithm to predict which wave groups will evolve into rogue waves by sifting through data coming from the surrounding waves. It can very precisely tell the time and location of the next rogue wave, but only gives a few minutes warning. Which is a whole lot better than no warning.
Image source: Wikimedia