For centuries, sailors have whispered tales of monstrous rogue waves capable of splitting ships and damaging oil rigs. These maritime myths turned real with the documented 26-meter-high rogue wave at Draupner oil platform in 1995.
Fast forward to 2023, and researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Victoria have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to predict these oceanic giants. They’ve developed a revolutionary formula using data from over a billion waves spanning 700 years, transforming maritime safety.
Decoding Rogue Waves: A Data-Driven Approach
The quest to understand rogue waves led researchers to explore vast ocean data. They focused on rogue waves, twice the size of surrounding waves, and even the extreme ones over 20 meters high. By analyzing data from buoys across the US and its territories, they amassed more than a billion wave records, equivalent to 700 years of ocean activity.
Using machine learning, the researchers crafted an algorithm to identify rogue wave causes. They discovered that rogue waves occur more frequently than imagined, with about one monster wave daily at random ocean locations. However, not all are the colossal 20-meter giants feared by mariners.
AI as a New-Age Oceanographer
The study stands out for its use of AI, particularly symbolic regression. Unlike traditional AI methods that offer single predictions, this approach yields an equation. It’s akin to Kepler deciphering planetary movements from Tycho Brahe’s astronomical data, but with AI analyzing waves.
The AI examined over a billion waves and formulated an equation, providing a “recipe” for rogue waves. This groundbreaking method offers a transparent algorithm, aligning with physics laws, and enhances human understanding beyond the typical AI black box.
Contrary to popular belief that rogue waves stem from energy-stealing wave combinations, this research points to “linear superposition” as the primary cause. Known since the 1700s, this phenomenon occurs when two wave systems intersect, amplifying each other momentarily.
The study’s data supports this long-standing theory, offering a new perspective on rogue wave formation.
Towards Safer Maritime Journeys
This AI-driven algorithm is a boon for the shipping industry, constantly navigating potential dangers at sea. With approximately 50,000 cargo ships sailing globally, this tool enables route planning that accounts for the risk of rogue waves. Shipping companies can now use the algorithm for risk assessment and choose safer routes accordingly.
The research, algorithm, and utilized weather and wave data are publicly accessible. This openness allows entities like weather services and public authorities to calculate rogue wave probabilities easily. The study’s transparency in intermediate calculations sets it apart from typical AI models, enhancing our understanding of these oceanic phenomena.
The University of Copenhagen’s groundbreaking research, blending AI with oceanography, marks a significant advancement in our understanding of rogue waves. By transforming a massive wave database into a clear, physics-aligned equation, this study not only demystifies a long-standing maritime mystery but also paves the way for safer sea travels. The algorithm’s potential to predict these maritime monsters will be a crucial tool for the global shipping industry, heralding a new era of informed and safer ocean navigation.