Real-world rogue wave probabilities

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Rogue waves are dangerous ocean waves at least twice as high as the surrounding waves. Despite an abundance of studies conducting simulations or wave tank experiments, there is so far no reliable forecast for them. In this study, we use data mining and interpretable machine learning to analyze large amounts of observational data instead (more than 1 billion waves). This reveals how rogue wave occurrence depends on the sea state. We find that traditionally favored parameters such as surface elevation kurtosis, steepness, and Benjamin-Feir index are weak predictors for real-world rogue wave risk. In the studied regime, kurtosis is only informative within a single wave group, and is not useful for forecasting. Instead, crest-trough correlation is the dominating parameter in all studied conditions, water depths, and locations, explaining about a factor of 10 in rogue wave risk variation. For rogue crests, where bandwidth effects are unimportant, we find that skewness, steepness, and Ursell number are the strongest predictors, in line with second-order theory. Our results suggest that linear superposition in bandwidth-limited seas is the main pathway to "everyday" rogue waves, with nonlinear contributions providing a minor correction. This casts some doubt whether the common rogue wave definition as any wave exceeding a certain height threshold is meaningful in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10084
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2021

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