Thursday, May 03, 2007

A week of WISE 2007 in Lorne, Australia

One week after Easter I attended a meeting, the 14th WISE (Waves in Shallow Environments) meeting in Lorne (near Melbourne), Victoria, Australia. WISE has been a “must attend” meeting for me in recent years. Not necessarily for the intellectual enlightenment but for the opportunity to see old friends. This is especially true for me this time because a few of my colleagues originally from Taiwan, Tony and David, currently stationed in Japan, and U.S. also attended. My friend Alex, the Australian organizer this year, also invited groups of scientists from Taiwan and Mainland China. I enjoyed the trip tremendously even the long flights had become bearable.

One of the bonuses of the meeting was an afternoon trip along the Great Ocean Road to the south most point of the Australian continent, the Cape Otway, and climbed to the top of mainland Australia’s oldest lighthouse, 20 m in height and 90 m above the wild Southern Ocean. The light, which has been in continuous operation since 1848, is probably the first sight of land for thousands of people from Europe after spent months at sea during Australia’s gold rush period.

Here are some of the pictures that Alex sent afterward:

This is a memorable meeting with a number of quite interesting papers. Sergei, a theoretician, gave a presentation entitled "Wave feedback on growth of young wind waves" which has plenty of observational connection in it. Jaak, a theoretician and modeler, asked the question "3D wave current coupling - how easy is it?" which examined objectively the terms in the modeling equation. The other paper with a question as title was "Self-similarity in bulk wave parameters: nonlinear interaction or steepness limit?" by David which is both enlightening and entertaining. Alex presented "Predicting the breaking onset of surface water waves" which is, of course, an epitome masterpiece of classical water wave studies. That's one paper makes one feel that 20 minute time allotment is just not enough.

There were about two papers on freaque waves in WISE 2007, I missed the one presented by Luigi and Luciana because I had to leave a day earlier. But Luigi was kindly given me a preview of their fabulous paper the day before. Their paper was a very thorough hindcast with different available wind and wave models on the wave conditions of the February 14, 2005 case of the cruise ship MV Voyager that was damaged by a reported huge wave in the Mediterranean. Their results show that waves that day were really predictable at most of 9 m high rather than the reported 15 m height. As this is a case only huge wave, not freaque wave, was indicated, their hindcast is clearly well-grounded and it also shows the peril of visual estimations by those actually encountering the wave may tend to easily overestimate by some 60 percent or more. On the other hand if it was a freaque wave per se, then the unpredictability of freaque waves would not necessarily negate the hindcast -- only to add further uncertainties nevertheless. At any rate freaque waves are still un-predictable!

Another memorable moment for me was a non-scheduled mini-roast, given by my friend Bob (I think Luciana was the instigator), for the three "elders" of the meeting: Luigi, Roop, and me -- the over 65 gang. That has to be an highlight of my career and a total surprise to me. It took a few second before I realized what was really going on there!

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