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The Making of the Andrea Wave and other Rogues.


Unexpectedly large ocean waves or 'rogues' are sometimes claimed to be the cause of damage to ships at sea and to offshore structures. While wind-driven wave models are capable of predicting the average characteristics of waves, the maximum height of rogues that may occur is yet unknown. Rogues form in the open ocean through the addition of elemental wave trains or groups and, infrequently, with many elements coming together in phase, producing rogues. Here we perform directional analyses on one of the steepest rogues ever recorded: the Andrea wave. We find that the Andrea wave was close to the breaking-limited height. Analysis of the 72 twenty minute records on the day of the Andrea wave yields encounter return periods of about 21 days for maximally steep waves, while less steep rogues occur about twice daily. An explicit formula is given for the encounter probability, based on the target area. This work answers the critical questions regarding rogues in the design and operation of ships and offshore structures: how high can rogues be and how frequently they occur.