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Waves: Often unpredictable in
size and power, waves can lead
to some serious trouble on
the seas.
One type of wave in particular
can appear to rise from nothing
to form massive walls of water,
trumping the size of a vessel,
only to crash down with
devastating force.
These are called "rogue waves"
and can measure up to eight
times high than the surrounding
Although they are quite massive,
the challenge is being able to
predict when and where a rogue
wave will appear, with enough
time for a ship's crew to act
accordingly. Now, a new
prediction tool developed by
engineers at MIT may give
sailors two to three minutes
warning of an incoming rogue wave.
To help identify any suspicious
rogue-like activity, researchers
would typically try to simulate
every individual wave in a given
body of water, to give a high-
resolution picture of the sea state.
However this approach requires
clusters of computers to solve
equations for each and every
wave and their interactions
with surrounding waves.
While the results are accurate,
the process is extremely slow,
and computationally expensive.
MIT researchers say their new
method could close the gap on
predicting rogue waves practically,
by allowing these computations
to be done much more efficiently.
Using an algorithm they developed,
the tool sifts through data from
surrounding waves. Depending
on a wave group's length and
height, the algorithm computes
a probability that the wave
group will turn into a rogue
wave within the next few minutes.
In this simulation, the red boxes
indicate high probability for
an extreme event in the future,
green is very low probability
and yellow is moderate. With
their algorithm, the team was
able to spot wave groups of a
certain length and height, that
indicated the group would evolve
into a rogue wave, within the
next two to three minutes.
The researchers say that, as
long as vessels have access to
high-resolution scanning
technologies that can track the
surrounding waves, the algorithm
may be used to give sailors
adequate warning of a
potentially destructive wave.