It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Freak wave 'hot spots' identified
Scientists in the US have made a major advance in their understanding of so-called freak waves.
These monster waves present a major risk to ships and offshore platforms.
A computer simulation developed by oceanographers in the US could help locate where and when these "rogue" phenomena are most likely to occur.
The theoretical study shows that coastal areas with variations in water depth and strong currents are hot spots for freak waves.
The history of seafaring is littered with tales of rogue waves capable of rending ships asunder.
A freak wave is one that measures roughly three times higher than other swells on the sea at any one time. These phenomena can measure up to 18m (60ft) - the height of a six-storey building.
The new computer simulation was developed by Tim Janssen of San Francisco State University (SFSU) and Thomas HC Herbers of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Their findings are published in the Journal of Physical Oceanography.
Sandbanks and strong currents may cause waves to change direction and speed. This concentrates wave energy into a single point, which oceanographers call a "wave focal zone".
This zone is like a burning glass, Dr Janssen explained, where the light comes in and focuses all the energy on a single point, forming a hot spot.
The same happens when a wave travels over, for example, a sandbank, or over a current. The energy is being focused on to a single point.
Oil platform (Getty)
The research could help inform the design of offshore platforms
The researchers found these hot spots were much more likely to drive the formation of extreme waves.
"In a normal wave field, on average, roughly three waves in every 10,000 are extreme waves," Dr Janssen explained.
"In a focal zone, this number could increase to about three in every 1,000 waves."
The scientists fed data on real waves into their computer model. Then, they repeated a single experiment over and over, each time using different data.
The SFSU oceanographer said he next hoped to go to known freak wave hotspots such as the Cortez Banks on the coast of California to test whether his simulations held true.
"What's really important about this research, is that it is easy to validate. We have a theory now, a prediction, and we can go to areas and actually measure whether this happens or not," he told BBC News.
Astronomers at Russia's largest observatory said Friday an asteroid now orbiting the sun may strike the Earth in 2035, but that the odds of a catastrophic collision can be estimated only 22 years from now.
"We cannot rule out the possibility of an asteroid, currently orbiting the sun, striking the Earth in 2035," said Sergei Smirnov, spokesman for St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Observatory. "But how much of a threat [this asteroid actually presents] will be impossible to assess until 2028, when it approaches our planet."
Flying in close proximity to the Earth will alter the asteroid's orbit, and scientists believe the extent of that shift will give them a clue as to the likelihood of future impacts, fraught with disastrous consequences for terrestrial life.
"[Celestial] bodies measuring 100 meters across or more are deemed dangerous," Smirnov said. "Such bodies, comparable in size to the Tunguska meteorite [that impacted Siberia in 1908], could cause a disaster on a regional scale in the event of an impact."
But the space rock expected to near the Earth in 2028 is about a kilometer in diameter, so if it does strike, our planet will face a continental disaster and major climate change.
"And if the asteroid falls into an ocean, the disaster could assume global proportions," warned Smirnov.