Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hmm, U.S. East Coast is safe from Tsunami attack!

This article in txchnologist today written by Dave Mosher, "Volcano-Triggered 'Mega Tsunamis" won't obliterate U.S. East Coast", probably will comforting many people and may be also making many people disappointed.

A tsunami triggered by landslides on the volcanic Canary Island of La Palma could crush the eastern U.S. seaboard — or not, according to the latest computer simulations.
An active volcano called Cumbre Vieja dominates La Palma’s southern flank, and someday a gargantuan chunk of it may slough into the Atlantic Ocean. Resulting waves could demolish Canary Island coasts, parts of Europe and Africa’s west coast. Then, in a cinematic twist redolent of disaster flicks like 2012, giant waves would crush the U.S. East Coast.
A group of researchers in 2001 floated the possibility that 80-foot waves from La Palma’s collapse could scour New York City, Washington D.C. and other coastal areas. Most scientists remain skeptical of this worst-case scenario and they have focused on exploring it instead of smaller and, perhaps, more likely tsunami scenarios.
So Stephan Grilli and colleagues of University of Rhode Island modeled a realistic, 19-cubic mile "much more likely to occur" landslide with the results suggest "a tsunami that would be less than 5 feet tall by the time it reached New York City. By contrast, Hurricane Irene in 2011 delivered a mostly harmless 4-foot-tall storm surge to parts of the metropolis."
Alarmists may not be happy to see these results but we can all be rest easy, thanks be to God!  Computer models can do a lot of things, for better or worse.  But one thing that can not be forced into by programing is ideological biases!  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What are we visualizing?

This article in Sea Technology  Magazine entitled "Visualizing large environmental data sets in a Global 4D viewer" showing a Makai Voyager screenshot that shows simultaneous visulizations of a hurricane model over the U.S. Atlantic seaboard and an ocean current flow model in the Pacific.  The picture  ( which is not permitted to be copied elsewhere is basically a composite snapshot and they this to say:
Having an accurate understanding of physical environmental conditions is essential to all ocean-related industries. Numerical models, informed by sensor data, have been developed for many of these industries to describe and predict the behavior of physical systems. Recently, there has been an exponential increase in the size, quality and complexity of environmental data from surveys, sensors and numerical models. 
Models often produce gigabytes or terabytes of data containing multiple variables of interest that can change in both space and time. However, the tools to process and visualize these large environmental data sets have not kept pace with the increase in data generation. Scientists, engineers and executives are facing the fundamental problem of how to efficiently manage and interpret the vast amount of oceanographic, geologic and atmospheric data being collected and modeled. Scientific and oceanographic activities are often limited to using subsets of environmental and sensor data, which increases the possibility of missing critical information. Furthermore, most data are still being presented as sequences of flat 2D images, which is an inefficient and time-consuming method of analyzing data that is inherently 3D and 4D (3D plus time). 
Well-known, highly interactive software systems that are used to view large amounts of terrain and image data, such as Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth and the leading GIS software, are not capable of displaying large scientific data sets, such as volumetric (3D) data that changes in time (4D). They are primarily restricted to displaying imagery, terrain and static 3D objects. On the other hand, many existing scientific programs were not designed to easily incorporate georeferenced data such as lidar point clouds, large image files, elevation and bathymetry, and GIS data. These shortcomings in existing data fusion and visualization motivated Makai Ocean Engineering to create a tool called Makai Voyager that could combine and view all relevant scientific data in an interactive global 4D view. The software has applicability in oceanography, marine sciences, offshore oil and geophysical exploration, underwater mining and construction, coastal and environmental engineering, ROV planning and simulation, resource assessment for offshore renewable energy and defense tactical displays. 
So the article is just an advertisement for the software.  As they indicated that 4D is 3D plus time the results, which they did not show, must be composite simultaneous video displays. What I am wondering about  is what I am gathering is that they are obviously combining measurements from sensors with models.  If so, isn't that mixing oranges with apples?  We are living in a bewildered world as we are already , what does mixed up more model imaginations with realities would accomplish?  Aren't we living in a make-believe world when they tell us what exactly the temperature will be 100 years from now but still can't get the temperature tomorrow right?  The wonder world of technology can do a lot of good things, but what they can NOT substitute is the simple reality!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rogue wave the Number one cruise ship mishap!

The Conde Nast Traveler magazine just published an article on their web site today entitled: "The four common cruise ship mishaps (Hint: Not icebergs)".  The four mishaps are: rogue waves, storms, fires, and collisions.  Here's what they have to say about their number one mishap:

Rogue Wave
Rogue waves up to 100 feet tall are a spontaneous natural phenomenon that cannot easily be predicted. In 2005, the Grand Voyager of Iberojet Cruises was smacked by a wave that knocked out propulsion and communications systems and injured 20 passengers. In 2010, the Louis Majesty, operated by Louis Cruise Lines, was struck by 26-foot waves off the coast of France, smashing glass and killing two of the 1,400 passengers and injuring another 14.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES: Ship windows are being strengthened, and scientists are studying the prevalence of rogue waves across the ocean so that ships can be warned to avoid high-risk areas.
EFFECTIVENESS: The unpredictable nature of these waves can make them difficult to forecast. Researchers are continuing to improve their methods, in the hope of one day developing a more accurate early-warning system.
MOST COMMON REASON FOR FAILURE: Lack of reliable data. (Boldface emphasis mine.) 

Which is a quite concise and informative narration.   Off-hand I can't find anything to add or modify.  I especially appreciate their stressing of the "unpredictable nature" of these waves and that they provided "Lack of reliable data" As the "Most common reason for failure", something one rarely finds in most scientific literatures.  I hope someone in the scientific world would pay attention. One big thumb-up for the Conde Nast Traveler magazine!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guinness World Record: 78' --the largest wave ever surfed

This news item needs no introduction:
Guinness World Records can confirm that Garrett McNamara has entered the record books for surfing the largest ever wave.
The Hawaiian 44-year-old managed to surf a mammoth 78-foot wave last November at Nazaré, Portugal, a feat which has now been ratified by GWR after examining evidence.
His epic ride, which required him to be towed into the wave from a jetski, beats a record set by Mike Parsons at Cortes Bank in southern California, in 2008 by over a foot.
Go here to see the picture and video of the recording setting surfing in action.  I am certain Mr. Garrett McNamara is very happy and proud of setting this record and his name is now permanently entered into the record books.  As stated in the article, this new record beats the previous record by "over a foot".  Now what I am wondering is HOW did the Guinness World Record measure the height of the wave that was being surfed with this kind of accuracy?

Perils of fishing from the rocks

Tragedies can happen any place, any times even without the encounter of an apparent freaque wave as this Western Australia case recently reported by Australia's ABC News:

A 63-year-old South Australian man has drowned while fishing from rocks near Esperance in Western Australia.
The man died at Quagi Beach, about 80-kilometeres west of Esperance, on Saturday afternoon.
It is believed he lost his footing and slid into the ocean when he was hit by a wave.
The man's wife and two friends tried to save him but were unsuccessful.
Senior Sergeant Ricky Chadwick says it was a freak accident.
"His wife and friends had been travelling around Australia," he said.
"They were passing through Esperance and decided to camp at Quagi Beach for a couple of days; they'd been fishing there previously.
"On this occasion, unfortunately he slipped into the water and wasn't able to get himself back out."
Sergeant Chadwick says the conditions made it very difficult for the man to climb back up to safety.
"Fishing on rocks is very risky business, where the waves crash around the edge of the rocks, there's a lot of white water," he said.
"It's very, very difficult to swim in white water, people can panic so it doesn't take a lot to get yourself in a very dangerous predicament.
"Just one slight mishap has unfortunately ended tragically for this man and his family."
Yes, it was "just one slight mishap" that caused this unnecessary tragic case that should never, ever, be happen.  Let's hope and pray that it will indeed never, ever, be happen again!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

"It's hard to be happy and sad at the same time."

This article from 9news tells a rather sad story.  As the title of the article "Boat accident survivor 'owes life to missing friend'" pretty much spelled it out the essence of the details:
A woman who swam for three hours to reach land in the dead of the night after her boat capsized the Queensland coast says her survival is owed to her friend, who remains missing. 
 Candace Tommy and her work colleague Gavin Studwell, 39, were fishing near the Gold Coast when their 4.2m boat was struck by a freak wave at 2am on April 18.
 "Two freak waves… it's the last thing you would have expected," Ms Tommy told Nine News.
 "I thought ‘This is it, this is the end’." 
 Mr Studwell helped Ms Tommy to gain confidence in the water, telling her: "Keep listening to my voice. Focus on the lights. Swim towards the lights."
 The pair was washed apart when another huge wave rolled in but Ms Tommy was determined to make it to shore.
 She swam for three hours through jellyfish–infested water to reach Main Beach.
 "I said to myself 'I've got to get home. I'm going home. I'm going home to see my mum'," she said.
 Once she reached shore, Ms Tommy assumed Mr Studwell had already made it.
 Finding out he was still missing was hard to take.
 "It's very cold comfort," she said.
"It's hard to be happy and sad at the same time."
Clearly the last line gives the punch line of the story -- you can't be happy and sad at the same time!  We still don't know what had happened to her friend who basically saved her life by inspiring confidence in her.   Was it another freaque wave?   We can certainly share her anguish in being saved but her friend is still missing.  I guess the more fundamental point is that we still don't have any notion about this kind of freaque waves in the shallow part of the sea.  We don't know why and how it had happened -- "two freaque waves" this time.  They just kept on happening, over and over.  Academically we just try different or varied formulations.  Problem remains unsolved!  What else can the scientific world do?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A sailor's tale ?!

This was in the news a few weeks back in this article in

A SAILOR who is part of Edinburgh’s Clipper round the world yacht race has told how he helped save lives after another vessel was hit by freak waves.
Callum Watt splits his time between the Capital’s entry and other boats and was on the Geraldton Western Australia when it was hit by a 120ft-high surge last week.
Four crew members were badly injured and the yacht was damaged when the wave hit, 400 miles from San Francisco.
The 24-year-old, from Falkirk, had to tend to the injured and liaise with the US coastguard to get help.
He said: “The wave which rolled the boat must have been over 120ft high, taller than the mast. The force of the water was incredible and the boat was thrown around. It ripped off the satellite communication dome and steering post and below deck was awash.
“Two were in a bad way and examining and monitoring their vital signs on a boat that’s pitching and rolling was a challenge.”
Now 120 ft high wave, that's a large wave all right.  And it is not a wild guess either -- specifically it's "taller than the mast"!  What's there to doubt?

Well, in the Comments a lone commenter had this to say:
Freak wave ? More journalistic hyperbole. There is no such thing as a freak wave. Very large waves can occur when different wave patterns meet and add thus creating an irregular out of pattern wave which, and the Geraldton had the wind and hence waves coming from behind, probably came up unnoticed by the crew on deck and caught them unawares and caused the boat to broach. That might make the wave seem to be 120ft high
Interesting non-believer's view point!  "There is no such thing as a freak wave." Something you don't see or hear very much in this day and age. He spelled out the linear superposition idea on how it did happen.  And he speculated that it was "unnoticed by the crew on deck".  If it was unnoticed by the crew, wouldn't it be something freaque in the first place? Anyhow, this 120 ft high estimation of waves did not seem to make a lot of news otherwise!  Of course it's from the sailor of Edinburgh's Clipper, it must be an "Old sailor's tale" ;-) is it not?