Oceanic rogue waves are surface gravity waves whose wave heights are much larger than expected for the sea state. The common operational definition requires them to be at least twice as large as the significant wave height. In most circumstances, the properties of rogue waves and their probability of occurrence appear to be consistent with second-order random-wave theory. There are exceptions, although it is unclear whether these represent measurement errors or statistical flukes, or are caused by physical mechanisms not covered by the model. A clear deviation from second-order theory occurs in numerical simulations and wave-tank experiments, in which a higher frequency of occurrence of rogue waves is found in long-crested waves owing to a nonlinear instability.
Simulations have been performed with a fairly narrow band numerical gravity wave model (higher-order NLS type) and a computational domain of dimensions 128 × 128 typical wavelengths. The simulations are initiated with s 6 × 10 4 Fourier modes corresponding to truncated JONSWAP spectra and different angular distributions giving both short-and long-crested waves. A development of the spectra on the so-called Benjamin-Feir timescale is seen, similar to the one reported by Dysthe et al. (J. Fluid Mech. vol. 478, 2003, P. 1). The probability distributions of surface elevation and crest height are found to fit theoretical distributions found by Tayfun (J. Geophys. Res. vol. 85, 1980Res. vol. 85, , p. 1548) very well for elevations up to four standard deviations (for realistic angular spectral distributions). Moreover, in this range of the distributions, the influence of the spectral evolution seems insignificant. For the extreme parts of the distributions a significant correlation with the spectral change can be seen for very long-crested waves. For this case we find that the density of large waves increases during spectral change, in agreement with a recent experimental study by Onorato et al. (J. Fluid Mech. 2004 submitted).
Numerical simulations of the evolution of gravity wave spectra of fairly narrow bandwidth have been performed both for two and three dimensions. Simulations using the nonlinear Schrödinger (NLS) equation approximately verify the stability criteria of Alber (1978) in the two-dimensional but not in the three-dimensional case. Using a modified NLS equation (Trulsen et al. 2000) the spectra 'relax' towards a quasi-stationary state on a timescale ( 2 ω 0 ) −1 . In this state the low-frequency face is steepened and the spectral peak is downshifted. The three-dimensional simulations show a power-law behaviour ω −4 on the high-frequency side of the (angularly integrated) spectrum.
The paper discusses short-and long-term probability models of ocean waves. The Gaussian theory is reviewed, and nonlinear short-term probability distributions are derived from a narrow band second-order model. The nonlinearity has different impact on different measurement techniques, and this is further demonstrated for wave data from the WAVEMOD Crete measurement campaign and laser data from the North Sea. Finally, we give some examples on how the short-term statistics may be used to estimate the probability distributions for the maximum waves during individual storms as well as in a wave climate described by long-term distributions.
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