Peter Janssen, Head of Marine Aspects Section, ECMWF, presents a public lecture as part of the Advanced Grant MULTIWAVE workshop June, 2014
Although freak wave events are rare, they do happen and may cause considerable damage. However, in the past, mainly due to lack of empirical evidence or because, when there was evidence, it was not believed, the freak wave phenomenon has not been given much attention. This picture gradually changed when in the early 1990's numerical simulations showed the generation of extreme ocean waves caused by four-wave interactions, while in the mid 1990's the first sound empirical evidence on freak waves was presented.
The generation of freak waves by four-wave interactions has triggered a lot of scientific interest. In the narrow-band approximation the dynamics of the waves is determined by the nonlinear Schroedinger equation, an equation which is found in many other branches of physics, e.g. in nonlinear optics, plasma physics and in meteorology. Thus, although ocean freak waves are rare in nature, they are a fairly common phenomenon in labs all over the world since nowadays there is a better understanding of their generation.
Peter Janssen has worked in the field of theory and modelling of ocean waves since 1979. He took as Chairman of the WAM Development and Implementation group an active part in the development of the third generation WAM model.
He was one of the first to assimilate Altimeter wave heights into a global ocean wave prediction system. He is since January 1995 head of ECMWF's ocean wave modelling group and as such is also responsible for the quality of the surface winds over the global oceans. In particular he introduced in 1998 the first operational coupled ocean-wave, atmosphere
model, which is still in use for operational weather forecasting and seasonal forecasting at ECMWF. Recently, he has developed an operational freak wave warning system. In 2011 he became head of the Marine Prediction Section to work
on the development of a coupled atmosphere, ocean-wave, ocean/sea-ice system for analysis and for medium-range and seasonal prediction.
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