Real-time Earth and Moon phase

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Again, another.

This latest AFP news reporting freak weather hit the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. The occurrence of freaque waves does not always resulting from bad weather or storms. But one can certainly always expect giant or large waves to happen whenever bad weather or storms occur. In this news, the same dreadful thing happened again:
Rescuers found the body of a 19-year-old Swiss tourist who was carried away by a powerful wave while walking on a storm-lashed beach in the north of the island on Monday.
The weather condition as reported by this article indicates "Violent winds, freezing fog and rain were expected to continue lashing the normally-sunny island until at least Wednesday." It's always dangerous to walk on a beach even during seemingly nice weather. Why would anyone risk it to walk on the "storm-lashed" beach?

As this news has just happened. Don't be surprised when reporters from this side of Atlantic Ocean get a hold of this case, all will be naturally blamed on, what else? The human-induced global warming, of course!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another walking on the beach, another tragedy.

This news reported from Ireland about a tragic event happened in the east coast of Spain:
A QUIET holiday in Spain ended in tragedy for a local couple when they were swallowed up by a freak wave, sucked out to sea and one of them drowned.

Nigel Kehoe from Grangecon, Baltinglass, was holidaying in Alicante, Spain, with his long-term girlfriend, Lisa Keogh, when the tragic accident happened.

It was before lunchtime on Friday when they were walking from the water after a swim in the sea at Cala Estaca beach when a freak wave sucked them under the water and pulled them both out to sea. Lisa was able to free herself from the water, however, 21-year-old carpenter Nigel was unable to extricate himself and tragically drowned. . .

Here's a scenery from the nearby beach:

And here's a comment from a hometown priest:

“Everybody is shocked and stunned here. He is from a lovely family and they are very well known. Nigel played soccer with Grangecon AFC and gaelic football with Baltinglass GAA. There is a nice, beautiful community where the family live and our prayers are with them right now.”

No further words needed here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Abel Prize of 2007

Abel Prize is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for mathematics, established by the Norway government since 2002 to mark the 200th birthday of the great Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel. In March of this year the Norwegian Academy of Science awarded the 2007 Abel Prize to the NYU Professor S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan “for his fundamental contributions to probability theory and in particular for creating a unified theory of large deviation”.

A good down to earth explanation of the theory of large deviation is given by the Plus Magazine as the following:
In many real-life situations rare events — like 1000 lorries rolling over a bridge in one day causing it to fail, or a freak wave causing a dam to burst — are simply too serious to be taken lightly. Striking the balance between feasibility and safety involves subtle and complex mathematics that is not covered by the classical theorems of probability theory. This is what the theory of large deviation, for which Varadhan is being honoured, is all about.
So the real excitement for me is that the theory of large deviation and the significance of Prof. Varadham's contribution may just be the throughway that can leading to further understandings on freaque waves!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Conspiracy of sun-moon alliance

Here's a news from the Montreal Gazette this morning:

Massive waves have hit coastlines across Indonesia, sending hundreds of panicky residents rushing from their homes and destroying fishing boats and beachside shacks.

Television footage showed high waves crashing into the tourist island of Bali, parts of southern Java island and Sukabumi area in West Java where dozens of residents scrambled inland as flood waters flowed into a little village.

Officials warned fishermen against sailing in the Java sea tomorrow.

"The moon is in line with the sun and this, therefore, results in higher tidal waves than usual," said H. Sutrisno, head of data and information at the Metereology and Geophysics Agency in Bali.
This Mr. H. Sutrisno is an honest and resonsible official giving his plausible opinion for what he thinks. Clearly his mind is not contaminated by the global warming mumble jumble yet as he is not blaming it on guilty human -- that's why you will not find his opinion being cited in the New York Times and the likes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another beach drowning by freaque waves

I have already reported quite a few of tragic events happened along nearshore beaches caused by nearshore freaque waves. The potential danger of a poetic stroll on the beach just can not be over-emphasized. Here's another one just happened in Iceland as reported by the Island Review Online with the title "Woman Drowned by Rogue Wave":

A 75 year-old woman from Pennsylvania on her fifth trip to Iceland drowned Saturday at Reynisfjara beach, South Iceland, after a large wave crashed into the shore and pulled her out to sea. The woman was traveling with Kynnisferdir Tours along with her family, who witnessed the event.

The tour group stopped at the beach for its popular scenic view, looking out over the rock formations and cliffs by the sea. It is a known danger to go too far down the beach because of the massive waves that can rise up without warning and pull people out to sea, reports Morgunbladid.

When the group arrived at the beach at 3:00pm the sea seemed relatively calm, with little risk of fatal waves coming in on the tide, which was not the case.

The tour guide led the group down the beach after having warned people of the waves. “The guide was standing on the beach cautioning peoples not to enter to a small cave nearby, when he heard a scream and commotion. He then saw the woman after the wave had thrown her to the beach, and was pulling her out to sea,” explains Sigrídur Ásta Hallgrímsdóttir, a manager for Kynnisferdir. “Two men tried to reach her, but had to return to land after their attempt failed.”

After the accident, the authorities were contacted immediately and Search and Rescue teams deployed along with a Coast Guard helicopter. The tour group, shocked by the series of events, was transported to Reykjavík where they were met by representatives from the US Embassy and Red Cross workers.

At 5:00pm the woman’s body was located and retrieved by the Search and Rescue team from Vík í Mýrdal.

It is downright depressing to read something like this. I know if given the chance I would be very much eager to take a stroll on the beach. But that would against my own advices. Better to be safe and sacrifice some impulse and instinct than sorry. This kind of things just happen much too often to be ignored.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Source of giant waves

What new?
Well here's a piece of "new" news, from this interesting new news source, that's not the "same old, same old" boring stuff news writers copied from each other over and over:

May 16, 2007, 19:00 GMT

PARIS, France (UPI) -- The European Space Agency`s Envisat satellite has traced the origin and movement of massive waves that devastated France`s Reunion Island last Saturday.

The waves, reaching as high as 36 feet, thrashed the southern port of Saint Pierre, leaving two fishermen missing, causing several piers to collapse, and flooding homes and businesses.

The ESA said the satellite data show the waves originated south of Cape Town, South Africa, from an intense storm and traveled northeast for nearly 2,500 miles during a three-day period before slamming into Reunion Island.

So this is really what mordern technology can offer. What it clearly shows also is that this damaging giant/monster wave is definitely not a freaque wave as most of the previous news reports have been trying to imply. "Expert" has been suggesting that with the help of satellites, freaque waves can be expected to be predictable in the near future. It appears that what they can expect to predict is most likely the giant storm waves rather than freaque waves. The unexpectedness of freaque waves is certainly not a friendly feature for predictivity -- with or without satellite helps.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Six missing after freak wave

This depressing title "Six missing after freak wave" is the title given by the following news reported in Independent Online of South Africa:
Port Louis - Freak waves swept away at least six people off the coast of the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues at the weekend, police said on Monday.

One person went missing after a strong swell overturned his boat off the coast of south-east Mauritius on Saturday evening, while three fishermen disappeared on Sunday afternoon off Rodrigues, a territory 560km to the east of Mauritius.

There was also no sign of two coast guards whose boat was overturned when they were searching for the missing fishermen on Sunday afternoon.

Mauritius weather services reported waves of larger than three metres off the coast of the Indian Ocean islands at the weekend, and warned of further large waves on Monday.
I guess with two fishermen missing in neighboring island of Reunion, it should not be surprising that these happenings in Mauritius and Rodrigues. Again the calling of "freak" waves may not be justified. As the details are not known here, but the fact that " . . . swept away . . . off the coast . . ." can only underline the danger of coastal beaches, with or without freaque waves.

Beach-crossing lava

This is not anything about freaque waves, but I am fascinated by this A.P. picture of Kilauea's lava in action over the black sand beach:from this Press-Enterpress's travel news article, which gives this advice to whom it may concern (Not me!):
Strong winds and rogue waves make the sea cliffs dangerous. Anyone hiking the lava fields should wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and close-toed walking shoes because lava surfaces can be slippery, uneven and razor sharp.
I guess beach is a dangerous place. Generally one should worry dangers come from the ocean side. But near the lava field, danger could also be from the other side and even more frightening!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Giant wave hit Réunion island

We already knew that not all freaque waves are giant waves, and not all giant waves are freaque waves. But a lacking of clear definition for the terms and distinctive rule in their uage, it can be confusing at times. A case in point: we found two latest news items reporting the same case this morning. One entitled in part as "Giant waves thrash Reunion Island, . . ." and the other starts with the sentence "A freak wave sparked panic in the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion . . ." And both reported that two fishermen were missing. Since giant waves and freaque waves are not the same, which one is correct?

Well, for once I think in general freaque waves are out of blue -- unexpected and unpredicted whileas a giant waveis not unexpected. So the report by the Daily News and analysis of dnaindia.com states:
"A freak wave sparked panic in the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion where two fishermen were still missing on Sunday after their boast capsized the previous evening.

"The giant wave lashed the southern port of Saint Pierre on Saturday evening sending several piers crashing down and flooding homes along the coastline. Five families had to be evacuated from their homes.

"France's meteorological office said the giant wave, estimated at 11 metres in some places, came from the south and added that it was a "recurring phenomenon in winter" in the southern hemisphere."

As the last paragraph pointed out that 11 m wave is a recurring phonemenon in winter according to French meteorological office it is not unexpected, then the term "freak wave" used in the first paragraph, which night be attention grabbing, is most likely inaccurate. The International Herald Tribune article used the word "huge" wave for opening paragraph of freak wave and provided with more detailed informations. Even gave the origin of the wave as something called "austral swell." Which may tends to be a little on the "far" fetched side.

I must admit that I have never heard of Réunion Island before I read the news items. The above is a picture of the south coast of the island from travel-images.com. According to the Wikipedia, Réunion is an island, located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, about 200 km (130 miles) south west of Mauritius, the nearest island. Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas départements of France. Like the other overseas departments, Réunion is also one of the twenty-six regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as those situated on the European mainland. Réunion is an outermost region of the European Union, and thus the currency used is the euro. In fact, due to its location in a time zone to the east of Europe, Réunion was the first region in the world to use the euro. Well, we learn something new each day!

Update

AFP News brief here gave further details about this event along with a picture of the remains of the destroyed fishing boat:

the caption of the picture indicated "an unexpected strong wave coming from Madagascar" which is more conceivable and contradicting to the International Herald Tribune article about Austral swell. The AFP article also starts by using "freak" waves and subsequently described it as "giant" waves.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My pictures of WISE 2007.

Here are some of the pictures I took during WISE 2007 in Lorne, Australia with my Kodak Easyshare CX6330 digital camera. Let me start off with the historical hotel where we had the meeting, the Pacific Grand:
And here's the road sign of the famous Great ocean Road near the hotel:
Subrise as seen from my hotel room:
The beach scene we saw on our way from the hotel to the downtown Lorne:
The followings are views of the Otway Lighthouse I took:


Looking west from the top of the lighthouse:
Looking east from the top of the lighthouse:
Finally a view of part of the coastal area of the Australian mainland and nearshore waves as my NZ Air flight was roaring off:



Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sailing to serenity

What is the antonym to freaque wave? Serenity may be!

I came across this article entitled "Sailing to serenity" by a writer named Jack Branswell with the byline "Boat trips in Australia's Whitsunday Islands offer unspoiled beauty, quiet and peace." As one who just came back from a trip to Australia, the article certainly attracts my attention.

This is how the article started:

"Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." That may well be true, but a few days at sea sleeping under the stars with nothing but the gentle rocking of a boat as you fade into slumber, sure helps you chart your course toward peace.

"Here I was aboard the Enid, a sailboat anchored off a tiny island in Australia's Whitsunday Islands, about 500 kilometres south of Cairns on the east coast. It was 2 a.m., no lights other than from the moon, and no sounds other than the waves and a zephyr, a soft gentle breeze, reaching the furled sails."
It's basically an article in the travel section with many pictures. Here is probably the sail boat in which the author and his wife spent time on:
But I certainly have no desire to be on something like this following kind of sail stuff:
On the other hand what I would truly enjoy is to be walking on a beach like this one:
where you can look back and see your own foot prints. Yes, we can do similar thing in Michigan when there's a sheet of new snow in winter. Of course it's not the same. Take an early morning walk on a beach like this and watching and hearing waves gently roaring toward you -- that's what dreams and poetry are made of. But while watching the waves rushing toward the shore, beware the freaque waves! There is always a freaque wave beneath there somewhere, some time, somehow.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Peril of yachting in the Southern Ocean

Yacht has been in the news in recent days: there was search and rescue, there was tragic loss, and there was mystery, all were happenings around the Southern Ocean and all were blamed on likely freaque wave encounters.
  • As reported here (5/5/07), a 77 year old Japanese yachtsman who was attempting to become the oldest solo sailor to circumnavigate the world without stopping, unfortunately his yacht was disabled by a freak wave in the Southern Ocean about 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Tasmania. He made a distress call via satellite phone to Japan in the early hours of Saturday morning after the wave damaged his 12 metre (43 foot) yacht ‘ Korasaa77.’ A police helicopter winched him to safety
  • Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports (5/3/07) "Australian yachties rescued off African coast." As Western Australian yacht Cowrie Dancer encountered freaque waves and overturned 750 nautical miles off south-east of South African coast. one crew member was swept overboard in mountaineous 12 m waves and never to be found again. Three other crews were eventually rescued, but two of them were injured with only one was unharmed as detailed in Couriermail (5/4/07).
  • Earlier this report (4/23/07) tells "Freak wave to blame for abandoned yacht." According to TimesOnline:

    "THREE men who disappeared from their yacht last week were most likely washed overboard in a violent squall or freak wave, according to police.

    "The “ghost yacht”, Kaz II, was found listing in Queensland waters with the table laid for dinner, the global positioning system and laptop humming, and the engine idling - yet with no crew." (One may be reminded the case of the Mary Celeste, which, like this case, was founded abandoned with food laid on the table in 1872.)"

More about Cape Otway

An author, Sherry Irvine, who visited Cape Otway two years ago, have this to say:
"Towards the end of my recent trip to New Zealand and Australia I stood atop the Cape Otway lighthouse looking out over the Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean. I enjoyed the view and reflected for some minutes on the long voyage from Britain."
Well,
I stood on top of the Cape Otway lighthouse looking out over the Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean also. I also enjoyed the view but I did not reflect upon the long voyage from Britain. I was only congratulating myself for making it up there without slowing down anyone
I find what she wrote in the following paragraphs is better than I can ever write and well worth a reading:
"It was a beautiful, sunny, early autumn afternoon when I was there; I found it difficult to imagine making the approach to this spot on a stormy night in a sailing ship, not having seen land for weeks. The lighthouse and its beam must have conveyed much more than a message of warning to those who saw it.

"The lighthouse was constructed in 1847-1848. The dangers of this point of land had been recognized right from the discovery of the strait in 1798 but dense forest and difficult terrain long delayed any attempt to build. The completion of the lighthouse coincided approximately with other significant events—the discovery of gold in Australia (1851), the beginning of regular steamship sailings (the Great Eastern made her first voyage in 1852) and the adoption of the great circle route to Australia. Ships altered their track to a faster route and passed well south of the Cape of Good Hope; they might see no more than a few rocky islands between Britain and Cape Otway. For thousands of people, Cape Otway became their gateway to a new life."

I did not intend to seek history on my trip there, but history is part of our life nevertheless.

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!