Research

4th Birthday: Rogue Waves

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Rogue waves—individual, isolated waves far larger than the surrounding waves—were reported for centuries by sailors. But their stories of massive walls of water appearing in the open ocean were not corroborated until 1995 when a rogue wave struck an offshore platform. How these giant waves form is still under active research, but one leading theory is that nonlinear interactions between waves allow one wave to sap energy from surrounding waves and focus it into one much larger, short-lived wave. I first learned of rogue waves during a seminar in graduate school. At the time, this idea of nonlinear focusing had only been explored in simulation, but a few years later a research group was able to demonstrate the effect in a wave tank, as shown in the video above. Wait for the end, and you’ll notice how the rogue wave that takes down the ship is much larger than its predecessors. For more on rogue waves and their mind-boggling behavior, be sure to check my previous post on the subject.  (Video credit: A. Chabchoub, N. Hoffmann, and N. Akhmediev)

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