Rogue waves, also known as freak or killer waves, are waves larger than twice the size of the surrounding waves. They are enormous in relation to the sea state, but not necessarily the biggest wave you will encounter at sea.
These waves occur unexpectedly with huge force. This makes them especially dangerous.
The Draupner wave (or New Year’s wave) was the first rogue wave detected in 1995. It measured 25.6 meters in a sea state with wave heights of approximately 12 meters.
Recently, scientists recorded the largest rogue wave ever. A 17.6-meter rogue wave – the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded – has been measured by MarineLabs in the waters off of Ucluelet, B.C.
This Ucluelet wave, which measures as high as a four-story building, was recorded in November 2020 by Victoria, B.C.-based MarineLabs Data Systems (MarineLabs). It was 17.6 meters in a sea state with wave heights of approximately 6 meters – nearly three times the size of the waves around it.
One of MarineLabs’ sensor buoys deployed at Amphitrite Bank recorded the wave.
Johannes Gemmrich, a research scientist at the University of Victoria and the lead author of the study, said, “Only a few rogue waves in high sea states have been observed directly, and nothing of this magnitude. The probability of such an event occurring is once in 1,300 years.”
MarineLabs’ CoastAware provides data from a network of 26 sensor buoys strategically placed on coastlines and in oceans around North America.
MarineLabs CEO Dr. Scott Beatty said, “Capturing this once-in-a-millennium wave, right in our backyard, is a thrilling indicator of the power of coastal intelligence to transform marine safety.”
- Gemmrich, J., Cicon, L. Generation mechanism and prediction of an observed extreme rogue wave. Sci Rep 12, 1718 (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-05671-4