New algorithm can warn sailors about rogue waves

New York: Engineers at a US university have developed a new algorithm that may give sailors a 2-3 minute warning of an incoming rogue wave — huge, towering walls of water that seemingly rise up from nothing to dwarf, then deluge, vessel and crew.

The tool, developed by a team of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), sifts through data from surrounding waves to spot clusters of waves that may develop into a rogue wave.

Depending on a wave group’s length and height, the algorithm computes a probability that the group will turn into a rogue wave within the next few minutes, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

“It’s precise in the sense that it’s telling us very accurately the location and the time that this rare event will happen,” said Themis Sapsis, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

“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,” Sapsis added.

The researcher’s team used the statistical data to quantify the range of wave possibilities, for a given body of water. They then developed a novel approach to analyse the nonlinear dynamics of the system and predict which wave groups will evolve into extreme rogue waves.

Sapsis said the algorithm is able to predict rogue waves several minutes before they fully develop.

To put the algorithm into practice, he said ships and offshore platforms will have to utilise high-resolution scanning technologies such as LIDAR and radar to measure the surrounding waves.