A “rogue wave” broke the record for the most extreme ever recorded in the North Pacific Ocean

The rogue wave measured 17.6 meters high in an area where waves reach maximum heights of 6 meters.

Oceanographic researchers announced the measurement of a giant wave of 17.6 metersthe most extreme “rogue” wave ever recorded, in Canadian waters off UclueletBritish Columbia.

The rogue wave, which is as tall as a city building four floorswas registered in November 2020 by MarineLabs Data Systems (MarineLabs) and is the subject of a scientific report by Dr Johannes Gemmrich and Leah Cicon, both from the University of Victoria, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports.

Rogue waves are defined as waves more than twice as high as others around them. Also known as monster or killer waves, their tendency to occur unexpectedly and with great force makes them especially dangerous.

The first wild wave ever measured occurred off the coast of Norway in 1995. Known as the ‘Draupner wave’, it measured 25.6 meters in a sea state with wave heights of approximately 12 meters, twice the size of those that occur around it. The wave recorded by MarineLabs at Ucluelet was 17.6 meters in a sea state with wave heights of approximately 6 meters, almost three times the size of the waves around it.

The giant wave was detected in the waters of Ucluelet, British Columbia
The giant wave was detected in the waters of Ucluelet, British Columbia

“Proportionally, the Ucluelet wave is probably the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded,” says Gemmrich, who studies large wave events along the British Columbia coast as part of his job as a research physicist at the University of Victoria. “Only a few rogue waves have been directly observed in offshore states, and nothing of this magnitude. The probability of such an event occurring is once every 1,300 years.”

Ucluelet’s record breaking wave was recorded by one of the MarineLabs sensor buoys deployed on Amphitrite Bank, approximately seven kilometers offshore of Ucluelet. The buoy is part of a network of marine sensors that make up MarineLabs’ CoastAware platform.

“The unpredictability of rogue waves and the sheer power of these ‘walls of water’ can make them incredibly dangerous to marine operations and the public,” says MarineLabs CEO Dr. Scott Beatty. “The potential to predict rogue waves remains an open question, but our data helps us better understand when, where and how rogue waves form, and the risks they pose.”

A simulation shows the magnitude of the rogue wave
A simulation shows the magnitude of the rogue wave

CoastAware from MarineLabs provides data from a network of 26 sensor buoys strategically located on the coasts and in the oceans of North America. By 2022, the company plans to more than double the number of sensor locations, bringing its buoy fleet to close to 70 At the end of the year.

“Our goal is to improve safety and decision-making for marine operations and coastal communities through widespread measurement of the world’s coastlines,” Beatty says. “Capturing this once-in-a-millennium wave, right in our backyard, is an exciting indicator of the power of coastal intelligence to transform maritime security.”


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