The open ocean is daunting enough when it's relatively calm, but add in the existence of huge, seemingly randomly-occurring walls of water, and it becomes downright terrifying. Now, researchers at MIT have come up with a new way of predicting when a rogue wave is about to hit, giving ships and offshore platforms a few precious minutes to prepare for the dangerous event.

To help warn vessels and platforms caught in the path of the destructive waves, the team of MIT researchers worked to create an algorithm that's able to spot clusters of waves that have a high possibility of developing into a rogue wave.

Previous attempts at rogue wave detection have made use of complex systems that take a leave-no-wave-behind approach, tracking and simulating every single wave in a given body of water. This does provide a high-resolution picture of the sea state, but the method is extremely computationally intensive, making it too slow for quick detection.

The MIT method takes a similar idea, but simplifies things significantly. Rather than analyzing every single wave, the new tool looks for waves that are clustered together, rolling through the depths in a single movement. It's these groups of waves that tend to focus together, exchanging energy and eventually forming one huge, rogue wave.

The system uses an algorithm to determine the probability of these groups forming rogue waves based on their length and height, which as identified by analyzing wave data gathered by ocean buoys, combined with specialized wave water equations.

According to the team, the system is able to predict rogue waves 2-3 minutes before they fully develop, but in order for the tech to be utilized, platforms and ships will need to be fitted with compatible high-resolution scanning equipment, such as LIDAR and radar.

The work was recently published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

Source: MIT