After centuries of tales from sailors, in 1995 the Draupner off-shore platform recorded the first ever evidence of a freak wave – a single, wall-like wave steeper and taller than any other waves around it. Theories have been tossed back and forth for the last quarter century as to how the Draupner wave formed, but now a group of researchers report they have recreated a lab-scale version of this is famous wave.
They did so in a wave pool by making two smaller groups of waves cross one another at about 120 degrees (top). The interaction of those wave packets generated a much larger, steeper wave (bottom image sequence) that matched the profile of the Draupner wave. Recreating this past freak wave confirms that wave-crossing can lead to freak waves, which will hopefully help us forecast when conditions may be right for more to occur. (Image credit and research credit: M. McAllister et al., source; via Motherboard; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)