Rogue Waves

The European Space Agency (ESA) tasked two of its Earth-scanning satellites to accurately measure the frequency of “rogue waves,” unusually large waves that occur “only once every thousand years” according to marine scientists’ accepted statistical models. Over three weeks, the project, called MaxWave, took radar “imagettes” in a 6 by 2.5 mile area every 120 miles. In a press release, the ESA revealed that “Even though the research period was brief, the satellites identified more than 10 individual giant waves around the globe that measured more than 25 metres (81.25 feet) in height.”

I learned a little about rogue waves when I studied Wing In Ground effect (WIG) vehicles, aircraft that fly over water at a height low enough to basically create a cushion of air, to simplify it somewhat. The efficiencies gained by flying at this height would theoretically allow monstrously large aircraft to carry huge payloads over water, but these efficiencies quickly evaporate as you increase the altitude. Rogue waves were mentioned as possible obstacles to operating these aircraft at their most efficient altitude, but their frequency was obviously underestimated…

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