Rogue four-story wave breaks records off Vancouver Island

“Only a few rogue waves on the high seas have been directly observed, and nothing of this magnitude. The probability of such an event occurring is one in 1,300 years,” said Johannes Gemmrich, one of the lead researchers on the rogue waves at the University. of Victoria.

The wave caused a stir in the scientific community for being proportionally the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded. Although it happened in November 2020, the study confirming it just released on February 2 this year.

A rogue wave is exactly how it sounds: unexpected and terrifying.

“They look like a big four-story chunk sticking out of the water with a big peak and big dips in front of it,” Scott Beatty, CEO of MarineLabs, the company operating the buoy that measured the wave, told CNN.

Over the past few decades, what was once known as marine folklore has now been accepted as real by scientists.

“Thieves, called ‘extreme storm waves’ by scientists, are those waves that are more than twice as large as the surrounding waves, are highly unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than the prevailing wind and waves. “said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. (NOAA) explained.

In simplified terms, “a rogue wave is really just a wave that is large relative to the surrounding wave field,” Gemmrich clarified.

The overall size doesn’t matter, but the size comparison to other waves does.

So while a wave reaching a height equivalent to four stories is impressive, its magnitude being three times that of its surrounding waves is what landed it in the record books.

The first recorded rogue wave, known as ‘The Draupner Wave’, was measured in 1995 off the coast of Norway at 84 feet (25.6 meters) with surrounding waves of around 40 feet (12 meters). ), making the original Rogue Wave about twice the size of those around it.

The record-breaking rogue wave recorded in November 2020 measured nearly 58 feet (17.6 meters) compared to surrounding waves of around 20 feet (6 meters), blowing the original proportions out of the water.

Recording these “killer waves” is no small feat

The rogue wave in the study was measured via a MarineLabs buoy about 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) off the coast of Ucluelet, British Columbia.

“We’re a real-time intelligence company and we provide real-time updates on what’s happening along the coastline, including wind, waves and other data,” Beatty explained.

The company produced a video simulation of the buoy around the time the rogue wave arrived, showing the swell in relation to the surrounding smaller waves.

The problem lies in how to continuously track the rogue waves once identified by a sensor.

“Most of the sightings are at one buoy, at one place, and so the wave goes through, and we know at that time that it was so high, but we don’t know how long. C That’s the big scientific question,” Gemmrich noted. .

One thing is certain: rogue waves aren’t afraid to rock the boat.

Such waves can pose a significant threat to maritime operations as well as the public due to their immense power and lack of predictability, Beatty pointed out.

“They are unexpected, so the vessel operator has little warning. If it is high enough to cause damage to the vessel, the operator has no time to change course or react to it.” Gemmrich added.

A common misconception that Gemmrich wanted to point out is that rogue waves should not be confused with tsunamis. Although both are known to be big waves, the way they happen is completely different.
“Rogue waves are generated by the wind, so they are only a rare case of wind-generated waves. While a tsunami is generated most often by an earthquake, an underwater earthquake or , as we’ve seen recently, a volcanic eruption,” Gemmrich said.

Coastal communities everywhere are vulnerable to rogue waves. Gemmrich says anywhere exposed to water could experience a rogue wave, although places with strong currents are more likely to see them.

As for Vancouver Island, no damage from the rogue wave was reported, as it occurred too far offshore. However, they can present a danger ashore if they come closer to the coast.

To ensure better safety in the future, the scientific community is pushing for better research and forecasting to help prevent any harm to maritime operations or the public.

Jennie Lyons of NOAA pointed out that there are specialized distinctions for rogue waves.

A “sneaker wave” usually describes a rogue wave condition along the beach because it sneaks up on you. Rogue waves above open water that are much larger than those around it are often called “freak” waves. And rogue waves large enough to damage a ship or cause a ship to roll more than normal are called “killer waves” because if severe enough, the damage could capsize a ship and potentially kill people.

MarineLabs has a system of 26 buoys strategically placed in the oceans surrounding North America with the hope of more than doubling their number by the end of 2022.

“We aim to improve safety and decision-making for maritime operations and coastal communities through widespread measurement of the world’s coastlines,” Beatty said.

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