Washington: The mystery of why there are "rogue waves" in the world`s oceans may soon be solved, thanks to scientists who claim to be using mathematics to explain the phenomenon.
Until recently, rogue waves were regarded as fanciful
sea tales where ships were engulfed by one-off waves with a
massive wall of water. Recent studies from the European Union
showed that they do exist.
Now, an international team, led by Prof Nail Akhmediev
of Australian National University, has been using mathematical
equations, used in the field of non-linear optic, to shed some
light on rogue waves.
"Waves on the ocean and light beams may seem like
totally different things, but the underlying mathematics is
almost exactly the same.
"There`s no reason why models based on mathematical
concepts like the nonlinear Schrodinger equation can`t work
as well for water as they do for light and quantum wave
functions," Prof Akhmediev said.
The solution the team has come up with to explain
rogue waves sees two waves amplified by nonlinear effects
occur at the same time purely by coincidence.
This leads to further nonlinear behaviour, resulting
first in a great hole appearing in the water, followed by a
massive peaked wave many times higher than the average wave
height in local conditions, the scientists said.
They hope that this discovery will help in learning more about where these rogue waves might appear.
"There are so many variables that the behaviour of ocean waves is a highly chaotic system. So although there are conditions like bad weather and current flows that increase their probability, when and where they appear is largely just a matter of chance.
"But this doesn`t mean it`s hopeless. You never know what will happen in the future. May be now we understand what`s going on one day it might be possible to predict or even disrupt such waves as they begin to form near ships," Prof Akhmediev said.