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The most extreme killer wave in the North Pacific

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In November 2020, a strange blue wave lifted a lone buoy off the coast of British Columbia to a height of 17.6 meters (58 feet).

The four-story wall of water was finally confirmed in February 2022 as the record for the highest killer wave ever recorded, and such an extraordinary event is thought to only occur once every 1,300 years.

For centuries, killer waves have been nothing more than the subject of maritime folklore. The legend became a reality only in 1995. On the first day of the new year, a wave about 26 meters (85 feet) high suddenly hit an oil rig about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of Norway.

At that time, the so-called Draupner wave challenged all previous models created by scientists.

Since then, dozens of killer waves have been recorded (some even in the lagoons), and although the wave that appeared near Uklulet, Vancouver Island was not the longest, its relative size compared to the surrounding waves was unprecedented.

Scientists define a killer wave as any wave that is more than twice the height of the surrounding waves.

In comparison, the wave ukulele was three times the size of its counterparts. “Comparatively, the occlusion wave is likely to be the loudest killer wave ever recorded,” explained physicist Johannes Gemrich of the University of Victoria in 2022.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how killer waves form so we can better predict when they will appear. This includes measuring rogue waves in real time as well as running wind effect models.

The buoy that caught the auclulite wave was placed out to sea along with dozens of other buoys by a research institute called Marine Labs to learn more about the dangers in the deep.

Even when strange waves occur on the high seas, they can still destroy marine operations, wind farms or oil platforms. And if they are large enough, they can even endanger the lives of vacationers. For example, it is now believed that some ships that went missing in the 1970s were sunk by sudden waves on the horizon.

Unfortunately, a 2020 study predicted that North Pacific wave heights would increase with climate change, suggesting that the hidden wave may not hold its record high for as long as our current forecasts suggest more.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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