Advertisement
Tech by VICE

Six-Storey Monster Wave Height Sets a New World Record

The sea was angry that day, my friends.

by Kate Lunau
Dec 14 2016, 4:28pm

A wave on the north shore of Oahu. Image: Shutterstock

There's a new record for the biggest wave height ever recorded by a buoy—a walloping 19 meters (62.3 feet), taller than a six-storey building, according to a report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which is part of the United Nations.

Luckily, no humans were around to witness or be buffeted by this mind-boggling event. The wave height was recorded by an automated ocean monitoring buoy in the North Atlantic on Feb. 4 2013, beating the old record of 18.3 meters (59.9 feet). That wave height was recorded on Dec. 8 2007, also in the North Atlantic, the report says.

Although this wave struck nearly four years ago, an international committee of scientists recently confirmed it as the biggest wave height ever measured by a buoy.

Watch more on Daily VICE:

This wasn't a single, freakish "rogue wave," like the one made famous in The Perfect Storm. Rather, it was "significant wave height," meaning the average of the highest one-third of waves (wave height is the distance from one crest to the next trough), like what you'd see as an average if you watched about 20 waves go by over ten minutes, the WMO notes.

Rogue waves, which were long part of sailors' lore, have been reported as being even bigger than this particular wave height, although a difference in measurement could account for some of that. The famous Draupner wave, which struck a manned oil rig in the North Sea in 1995, was reported to be 26 meters (85 feet) high. It spawned the field of rogue wave research, which continues today. Scientists are now working on ways to forecast these potentially deadly waves before they strike.

Read More: Scientists Are Building Rogue Waves in the Lab to Understand Why They Form

The North Atlantic seems to be fertile ground for monster waves, because of its wind circulation patterns and atmospheric pressure in winter time, according to the WMO. Understanding these maritime monsters will be a good thing for sailors, for the shipping and oil industries, and really for anyone who has a healthy respect for the ocean.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.