It is being called an event that happens “once in a millennium.”
Researchers have announced that the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded has been measured off the coast of Vancouver Island, near Ucluelet, B.C.
The wave, measuring 17.6 metres – which is as high as a four-storey building – was recorded in November 2020 by Victoria, B.C.-based MarineLabs Data Systems.
It is the subject of a scientific report by Dr. Johannes Gemmrich and Leah Cicon, from the University of Victoria, and published last week in the journal, Scientific Reports.
Rogue waves are waves with more than double the height of the waves currently happening around them. According to MarineLabs, they can also be known as “freak” or “killer waves” as they can occur unexpectedly, and, because they are so huge, can be very dangerous.
The first rogue wave was recorded in 1995 off the coast of Norway. MarineLabs said that wave measured 25.6 metres in a sea state with wave heights of about 12 metres – roughly two times the size of the waves around it.
This wave recorded off Ucluelet was 17.6 metres in a sea state of about six metres – roughly three times the size of the waves around it.
“Proportionally, the Ucluelet wave is likely the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded,” Gemmrich said, who studies large wave events along B.C.’s coastlines as part of his work as a research physicist at the University of Victoria. “Only a few rogue waves in high sea states have been observed directly, and nothing of this magnitude. The probability of such an event occurring is once in 1,300 years.”
This wave was recorded by one of MarineLabs’ sensor buoys, which is located at Amphitrite Bank, approximately seven kilometers offshore of Ucluelet. This buoy helps detect waves and ocean movement. There are 26 of them placed on coastlines and in oceans around North America.
“The unpredictability of rogue waves, and the sheer power of these ‘walls of water’ can make them incredibly dangerous to marine operations and the public,” MarineLabs CEO, Dr. Scott Beatty said in a release.
“The potential of predicting rogue waves remains an open question, but our data is helping to better understand when, where and how rogue waves form, and the risks that they pose.”