What conditions led to the Draupner freak wave?

Bidlot, Jean-Raymond ; Cavaleri, Luigi ; Bertotti, Luciana ; Barbariol, Francesco ; Benetazzo, Alvise ; Janssen, Peter ; Wedi, Nils

Année de publication
On 1 January 1995 at 15 UTC, the most famous freak wave to be detected by a measuring instrument was recorded by a downward-looking laser at the North Sea Draupner gas platform. The wave was 25.6 m high, with an 18.5 m crest height (Box A). The significant wave height in the area is estimated to have been almost 12 m. The measurement confirmed the existence of giant rogue waves, which had previously been reported anecdotally by sailors. It prompted a number of studies which aimed to determine the meteorological and wave situation at the time and to provide a physical explanation of the event. High-resolution retrospective forecasts (hindcasts) recently produced at ECMWF show the evolution of wind, pressure and wave fields on 1 January 1995 in unprecedented detail and shed fresh light on how the Draupner wave event may have come about. They suggest that waves driven by a southward-moving polar low interacted with a substantial local wind-generated wave system to produce the conditions conducive to the observed large rogue wave.

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