AI Unlocks Prediction of Ocean’s Rogue Waves from Historical Data

by Santiago Fernandez
AI rogue wave prediction

In a pioneering study, researchers have harnessed artificial intelligence to scrutinize over a billion historical ocean waves, spanning seven centuries. This extensive analysis has led to a revolutionary predictive model for rogue waves. The research, which effectively translates immense oceanic data into a probability equation for these unpredictable waves, challenges existing theories and holds substantial promise for enhancing maritime safety. This development, reported by, signifies a notable leap in understanding the sea’s mysteries through AI.

Leveraging a vast dataset of ocean waves, dating back seven centuries and comprising over a billion measurements, scientists from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Victoria have utilized advanced AI methods to develop a predictive formula for these maritime hazards.

Once regarded as mere seafaring legends, rogue waves, enormously large and destructive, are a genuine threat capable of destroying ships and damaging offshore structures. The researchers analyzed data encompassing seven hundred years, amounting to over a billion ocean wave observations. Through AI, they crafted a formula predicting the occurrence of these daunting oceanic phenomena, enhancing maritime safety.

For centuries, mariners have whispered tales of monstrous rogue waves. However, the existence of these waves became undeniable when a 26-meter-high rogue wave struck the Draupner oil platform in the North Sea in 1995, captured by digital instruments. This event marked the first scientific measurement of a rogue wave, proving their reality.

Subsequently, these extreme waves have been intensely studied. The Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen has now utilized AI to derive a mathematical model outlining the conditions under which rogue waves arise.

Dion Häfner, who recently defended his Ph.D. thesis “An Ocean of Data – Inferring the Causes of Real-World Rogue Waves” at the Niels Bohr Institute, has significantly contributed to this study.

The researchers, using extensive data on ocean dynamics, have developed a model predicting the probability of encountering a rogue wave at any given moment.

Dion Häfner explains, “It’s largely bad luck when a giant wave strikes. They result from a combination of factors that we’ve now integrated into a single risk model. We identified the variables leading to rogue waves and used AI to compile them into a formula calculating their formation probability.”

As the first author of this study, Häfner’s work has been published in the esteemed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Rogue waves are daily occurrences

The study’s model merges data on ocean movements, sea conditions, water depths, and bathymetric details. Critical to this research was wave data from 158 buoy locations across US coasts and territories, collecting 24/7 data. This data represents seven centuries of wave height and sea state information.

By examining various data types, the researchers identified the causes of rogue waves, defined as waves at least twice the height of surrounding waves, including those over 20 meters high. Using machine learning, they converted this data into an algorithm applied to their dataset.

Johannes Gemmrich, the study’s co-author, states, “Our analysis shows that abnormal waves occur constantly. We identified around 100,000 rogue waves in our dataset, equivalent to about one monster wave daily at any random ocean location. However, not all are of extreme size.”

AI’s Role as a Scientific Tool

In this research, artificial intelligence played a crucial role. The team employed various AI methods, including symbolic regression, which outputs an equation instead of just a single prediction, as is typical with traditional AI methods.

By analyzing more than a billion waves, the AI algorithm deduced the causes of rogue waves, distilling this into a formula that describes the likelihood of a rogue wave occurring. This AI approach not only solves the problem but also conveys its underlying causality to humans in an understandable equation.

“Decades ago, Tycho Brahe’s astronomical observations led Kepler, through extensive trial and error, to derive Kepler’s Laws. Dion Häfner has similarly used machines to analyze waves, akin to Kepler’s work with planets. The possibility of such an achievement continues to astonish me,” remarks Markus Jochum.

Revisiting Historical Understanding

The study also revises the commonly held view on rogue wave genesis. Previously, it was thought that rogue waves formed when one wave momentarily merged with another, siphoning its energy to create a larger wave.

The researchers, however, determined that “linear superposition” is a more prevalent factor in rogue wave formation. This phenomenon, recognized since the 1700s, occurs when two wave systems intersect, amplifying each other momentarily.

Häfner notes, “If two wave systems intersect at sea, increasing the likelihood of high crests followed by deep troughs, the risk of extremely large waves emerges. This is a three-century-old understanding that we have now substantiated with data.”

Enhanced Safety in Maritime Navigation

This AI-derived algorithm is particularly beneficial for the shipping industry, which typically has about 50,000 cargo ships navigating

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about AI rogue wave prediction

What is the significance of the AI-driven analysis of ocean waves?

The AI-driven analysis of over a billion ocean waves spanning seven centuries is significant as it has led to the development of a groundbreaking predictive model for rogue waves. This model enhances maritime safety by providing a more accurate prediction of these unpredictable and dangerous waves, challenging previous theories and methodologies in oceanography and maritime navigation.

How does AI contribute to predicting rogue waves?

Artificial Intelligence contributes by analyzing vast amounts of oceanic data, including wave heights, sea states, and other relevant factors, collected over centuries. By employing advanced AI techniques like machine learning and symbolic regression, researchers have been able to devise a formula that predicts the occurrence of rogue waves, offering a new level of understanding and predictive capability in marine science.

What impact does this research have on maritime safety?

The research has a significant impact on maritime safety as it provides a more reliable method for predicting rogue waves, which are known for their unpredictability and potential to cause severe damage to ships and offshore structures. With this new predictive model, shipping companies and maritime navigators can better assess the risks of rogue waves along their routes and take preventive measures, potentially saving lives and property.

Who conducted this research and what methodology was used?

The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Victoria. They utilized a methodology that involved analyzing over a billion wave observations, using AI techniques to process and interpret the data. This led to the development of a mathematical model that can predict the likelihood of rogue wave formation.

What is the historical significance of rogue waves and their study?

Rogue waves have been part of maritime lore for centuries, often regarded as myths. However, their existence was scientifically confirmed in 1995 when a 26-meter-high rogue wave struck the Draupner oil platform in the North Sea. Since then, these extreme waves have been the subject of intense study, leading to significant advancements in understanding ocean dynamics and wave behavior.

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ShipCaptainX December 19, 2023 - 7:25 am

finally, we might avoid rogue waves! gr8 4 shipping safety. AI doing its thing!

ScienceGeek101 December 19, 2023 - 8:05 am

I’m impressed by how AI is used to understand rogue waves. it’s a big step 4 ocean science

MarineEnthusiast22 December 19, 2023 - 7:57 pm

fascinating stuff! can’t believe rogue waves are real wow

OceanWavesResearcher December 19, 2023 - 8:55 pm

the data analysis here is insane! AI is such a game changer in oceanography

WeatherNerd123 December 19, 2023 - 9:32 pm

this is huge news 4 maritime industry! AI helps predict rogue waves better than b4. gr8 4 safety


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