Novel algorithm to warn sailors of incoming rogue waves

Novel algorithm to warn sailors of incoming rogue waves

MIT engineers have developed a prediction tool that provides sailors two to three minutes warning of an incoming rogue wave. The sailors will be able to get enough time to shut down essential operations on a ship or offshore program.

The tool is in the form of an algorithm. It sifts through data from surrounding waves to find out clusters of waves that can develop into a rogue wave. On the basis of a wave’s group’s length and height, the algorithm computes the probability that whether or not the cluster will turn into a rogue wave within next few minutes.

Rogue waves are massive, towering walls of water that rise up from nothing then deluge, vessel and crew. Rogue waves can measure eight times higher than surrounding seas and strike without any warning.


Themis Sapsis, the American Bureau of Shipping Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, was of the view, “It's precise in the sense that it's telling us very accurately the location and the time that this rare event will happen. We have a range of possibilities, and we can say that this will be a dangerous wave, and you'd better do something. That's really all you need”.

In order to understand events like rogue waves, scientists have taken a leave-no-wave-behind approach in which they have tried to mimic every wave in a given body of water so they can have a high-resolution picture of the sea state and of suspicious rogue-activity.

Sapsis said that it is a very detailed approach, which is computationally expensive. Though it’s accurate, it is quite slow. Therefore, the researchers came up with a much simpler, faster way to predict rogue waves.

The researchers said that there are certain wave groups that exchange energy in a way that leads to an extreme rogue waves. The researchers have identified precursors. They have used the statistical data to quantify the range of wave possibilities and developed a new approach to evaluate the nonlinear dynamics of the system and find out which wave groups will evolve into extreme rogue waves.


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