Thursday, March 31, 2011

What about waves?

New Scientist magazine posted this article "Wind and wave energies are not renewable after all" yesterday. (Registration required.) But reading the article it turns out that all it talked about was wind. What about waves?

Here is the paper that was just submitted with a long title "How does the earth system generate and maintain thermodynamic disequilibrium and what does it imply for the future of the planet" by Axel Kleidon. Is this using long title to make you breathless just reading it a new tactic in the new world science?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The loss of a Big-Wave surfer

Tragedy is hard to blog. Not being a surfer or a follower of surfing, I have never pay attention to different surfers. So the name Sion Milosky never made an impression on me. When I first heard of he lost his life while surfing in California, it was a tragedy, but did not feel strongly about blogging it without knowing about the details of the wave. Well, I just came across this report from Mercury News, I guess it describes the wave condition that Mr. Milosky encountered which is about as good as one might expected:

As the giant wave swelled at Mavericks, Sion Milosky paddled into it. He'd caught more than a few when suddenly the lip of a wave he was riding collapsed on top of him. Milosky went down, and the wave crashed over him -- again and again.

After surfing what some called "the session of a lifetime," Milosky, a 35-year-old Hawaiian known as one of the best big-wave riders in the world, died late Wednesday.

And this one:

Fifty-foot waves do not discriminate -- especially those that lurch from the deep open ocean at Mavericks, the region's iconic surf break near Half Moon Bay. From world champion surfers such as Kelly Slater to underground daredevils like Sion Milosky, the waves' raw, violent energy places the life of any mere mortal in the balance.

On Wednesday, Mavericks claimed Milosky, a respected 35-year-old Hawaiian with a wife and two daughters back home on Oahu's north shore. Milosky was a welder by trade but forged his truest identity as a fearless charger in the midst of four- and five-story waves, often at remote outer island reefs in Hawaii.

That told what had happened. It was an accident, a tragic accident. It's always sad to hear it. Now hundreds of news articles have written about the tragedy. This SFGate short tribute entitled "Surfer Sion Milosky's death atMavericks underscores ocean's force, attraction" is a good one completes with a video monologue. I would like to just show the following short video showing Sion Milosky in action in his memory:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Devastating Japan earthquake and Tsunami

Tsunami is not freaque wave because it is generally expectable, but it can be much more devastating. Yesterday's staggering 9.0 Richter scale earthquake in northeast Japan killed over 1300 people and sent catastrophic 33 foot tsunami hurtling across Pacific Ocean according to this DailyMail report.

Here's an AP picture showing the vortex of a whirlpool formed by tsunami waves at a port in Oarai, in the state of Ibaraki. Note that there is a small fishing boat caught in the mid of the whirlpool.

And here is the model output of the case:

Now here's the NOAA issued graphic of Tsunami wave heights as it travelled across the Pacific basin.
Our prayers are with all the devastated good people there, may God help them rebuilt their life in earnest blessing and for those lives lost may they all be rest in peace.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A story from email exchanges

While cleaning and sorting out my old emails I came upon a set of emails that re-reading them still give me some personal thrill and satisfaction. That was a few month before I retire from my active duty in April 2007, I received this email:
Dear Mr. Liu,

I am a 5th Grade student at Glenelg Country School in Howard County, Maryland. I am doing my 5th Grade Science project on rogue waves. I have read several articles that you have published on this topic of rogue waves. From what I've read I can tell that you are an expert on these freak waves. I was hoping that you would be willing to answer some questions.

My first question is: What is the biggest rogue wave that you know of?

My second question is: Do rogue waves have to occur as a result of an extreme storm or can they occur in calm waters? After a lot of reading on this subject, I am not quite sure I understand if rogue waves must be born of a storm. I know that another type of wave, a tsunami wave, is usually a result of an underground earthquake.

Thank you for your time.

Yours very truly,
G Cadoux
5th Grade

Duty bound, I duly responded with pleasure. Here’s my response:

Dear G Cadoux,

I am thrilled to have received your email and knowing that a 5th Grader would be interested in freaque waves. All power to the Howard County school system.

Regarding your first question, I don't have a ready answer for you. I think you can find an answer easily through, for instance, Google search. The size of waves is not that important. When things go wrong, disastrous damages do not necessarily be caused by very large waves.

Your second question, however, is a very good one. Freaque waves can happen during storm *and* during calm conditions. At the present we do not know what was really causing the occurrence of freaque waves. There are a number of speculations that can lead to freaque wave generation one way or the other. But only speculations. When a freaque wave happen unexpectedly, which can happen any time at any place out there, with or without people around to see it, any number of speculations on their occurrence may or may not be applicable. You are correctly pointing out that Tsunami is caused by earthquakes, which is totally different from freaque waves. Although many adult media types still frequently mixed them up in their reporting.

I am not certain if I have answered your questions. If not, please feel
free to ask me again.


Paul C. Liu

She had a fellow up:

Dear Mr. Liu,

I am thrilled that you answered my questions about freaquewaves. You have answered my questions very fondly and the answers are very important, and also very interesting.

I do have one more question, this question is not on my report but I think it is important. I was on the internet watching a video about a fishing boat on DEADLIEST CATCH DiscoveryChannel, and this man left his video camera on and a rouge wave hit his boat. The rogue wave that hit his boat was as tall as a five storey
building. Have you ever recorded a rogue wave bigger in any way?

Thank you for helping me with my research and it has helped me a lot and sounds very interesting.

Gabbe Cadoux

And I responded with this

Dear Gabbe,

The freaque wave case you saw on the TV show "Deadliest Catch" is obviously true. Waves higher than that one are known to have happened. Not being a sea-going sailor myself, I have not personally seen or experienced any. Waves can do damage not necessarily by its size. Sometimes a few meters high wave can cause disaster at the wrong place and the wrong time. The research on freaque waves is a young field, no one has any substantive answers yet. Mostly speculative. We don't know where or when it will happen or why. We only know that it will happen somewhere, sometime, somehow!


Paul C. Liu

That was the end of my communication with Gabbe. But a couple of month later I received this:

Dear Mr. Liu,

My husband and I would like to personally thank you for responding to our daughter's questions about rogue waves. We are not sure how she came to select this topic for her science report but it proved to be very interesting. Your name frequently appeared in her research so we encouraged her to contact you. You are obviously an international expert on this topic. The fact that you took the time to address her questions was such an encouragement. Thank you again!!

By the way, she received an A++ on the paper. Her science teacher found the subject matter fascinating.


Cathleen Cadoux

Now here’s my reply:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cadoux,

Thank you very much for your email. I am delighted to hear that Gabbe received A++ for her paper on rogue waves. Please extend my heartfelt congratulations to her.

There are plenty of activities in a research scientist’s life that’s routine and predictable. But communication with a 5th grader on a science topic is definitely not among them. I was truly thrilled to encounter a 5th grader who’s interested in rogue waves. And she asked very thoughtful questions. It was an enchanting experience for me.


Paul C. Liu

Gabbe should be in high school by now. I am certain she'll be happy and successful where ever or whatever she chooses to pursue. All the sincere best wishes to her continued success. Life's happiness and satisfaction sometimes simply come from just doing one's job and be ones own self!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Wave power energy anyone?

This news this morning about a new wave power buoy by U.K.'s Birmingham is unlikely to be picked up by mainstream news reporters:

At 135ft long and weighing 250 tonnes the PB150 PowerBuoy device, created by Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), has a peak-rated power output of 150kW – equivalent to the energy consumption of approximately 150 homes.

Here's a picture of an OPT PowerBuoy, probably an early version, that was deployed at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu according this well prepared article in San Clemente Times entitled "A New Wave" by Andrea Swayne a few days ago.

Swayne's article provided well researched reasons why wave power development has encountered so much resistence in general:
Most agree that new, renewable, green sources of energy are a good thing and those living near the coast are well acquainted with the potential energy of ocean waves and currents. Producing electricity by harnessing wave power seems like a no-brainer. After all, hydro-electricity from rivers and dams has long been a viable source of renewable energy. But some fear that taking this technology to the ocean could have potentially devastating effects on the fishing industry by making coastal waters off-limits as well as pose hazards to the environment by endangering sea life.
Anglers are not the only groups concerned about a lack of communication to stakeholders and what this could mean for our coastline.

Environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation also have concerns related to the proposed wave farm with regard to possible harmful effects on sea life—mainly potential harm to sharks and marine mammals caused by electrical fields.
One can not fault the concerns of these special interest groups. But these are just some of the reasons why it always seems that the U.S. is totally uninterested in wave power technology in the first place.

Recently a professor from Spain who started working on wave energy with their new Spanish government funding asked me what project has U.S. been working on. I can only told him that the U.S. does not seem to be interested in wave energy. Next time when I see him again, I'll be able to explain to him the reason why!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A lucky beacch wedding

This lucky couple's wedding on the beach video has become instant hit on the Youtube. That's not necessarily their original intention. But it did. Along with their popularity are naturally all the goodwill wishes from total strangers for their long and happy life together!

Now for the freaque wave watchers, pay attention around the 2:40 time mark:

They characterized their beach wedding as "unlucky" and a news article even called it "disastrous' but I think they are in fact really very lucky, it's all happened manageably, no major mishaps. Especially when they went back to the beach for the pictures two days later on a nice day and encountered that freaque wave and both of them being swept on the beach. They are very lucky because that's all that had happened. Plenty of unlucky stories also happened that way. I saw a good numbers of Youtube beach weddings had took place, some even involved children. I guess Coast Guards are duly notified and be ready for anything that might happen. I sincerely appreciate Kathleen and Bryan chose to share their experience with us strangers. All the best wishes and lifelong happiness to them. I certainly would not advise any of my love ones to do something like that no matter how adventurous and well prepared they are at any circumstances.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jeremy's story

This blog is about freaque waves -- which is generally keeping an eye on the science and the news about freaque waves. Only occasionally that I get comments here and there. Freaque waves, being unexpected and certainly unwelcome, encounter with it usually resulted in sad human tragedies with infrequent happy endings. In my last post there's a comment left by Mrs. Ruth Earnshaw of Alaska recounting the lost of their son Jeremy in Australia two years ago:

Never thought of freak waves until Father's Day 2008 when we received a call in Alaska that our son Jeremy had an accident. He was working with Youth With a Mission in Australia and he was at the beach that day showing his friends where he wanted to propose. The boys went down to walk on the rocks when a freak wave washed them in...our son Jeremy was never found.
She referred me to a website called for details. I actually blogged here two years ago about Jeremy's case shortly after it happened when Jeremy was still considered as missing and the search was still ongoing. Here's my comments made at the time:
The same familiar plot again: walking along coastal rocks when a freak wave washed them away!

The Australian police had already told the parents to “prepare ourselves for the inevitable, that he probably is not alive”. Let our best wishes and prayers be with the parents, miracle can happen and hope it can happen to this family.

Walking along a beach or coastal area is the most enjoyable thing and it can be peaceful and tranquil. Why can't we make it stays that way? We can explore Mars and go to the Moon, but no one cares to do something to make our beach and coast safer for human life. Why?
My misgivings are still the same: no one in the academia and the governments seem to really concerned enough on providing resources to learn more about the happenings even when tragedies happen so frequently. I wish to thank Mrs. Earnshaw for reminding us this tragic case. I was intrigued by the website called "onetwentyone". It is in fact an important part of Jeremy's story:
Jeremy had made numerous trips to Australia since 2003, working with the youth and studying at the Newcastle Youth With a Mission base. As part of his training, Jeremy participated in a mission excursion, working in orphanages in Cairo, Egypt. Before he left for Cairo, Jeremy decided to put a tattoo on his chest of Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, to die is to gain.”
I am sure that Jeremy is in a much better place now and he'll be continuously pray for us!