Analysis and Prediction of Ocean Swell Using Instrumented Buoys

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  • 1 Applied Technology Division, Computer Sciences Corporation, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
  • | 2 Ocean Models Division, Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center, Monterey, California
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Abstract

During the period 20–23 September 1990, the remnants of Supertyphoon Flo moved into the central North Pacific Ocean with sustained wind speeds of 28 m s−1. The strong wind and large fetch area associated with this storm generated long-period swell that propagated to the west coast of North America. National Data Buoy Center moored-buoy stations, located in a network that ranged from the Gulf of Alaska to the California Bight, provided wave spectral estimates of the swell from this storm. The greatest dominant wave periods measured were approximately 20–25 s, and significant wave heights measured ranged from 3 to 8 m. Wave spectra from an array of three nondirectional buoys are used to find the source of the long-period swell. Directional wave spectra from a heave-pitch-roll buoy are also used to make an independent estimate of the source of the swell. The ridge-line method, using time-frequency contour plots of wave spectral energy density, is used to determine the time of swell generation, which is used with the appropriate surface pressure analysis to infer the swell generation area. The diagnosed sources of the swell are also compared with nowcasts from the Global Spectral Ocean Wave Model of the Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center. A simple method of predicting the propagation of ocean swell, by applying a simple kinematic model of wave propagation to the estimated point and time source, is demonstrated.

Abstract

During the period 20–23 September 1990, the remnants of Supertyphoon Flo moved into the central North Pacific Ocean with sustained wind speeds of 28 m s−1. The strong wind and large fetch area associated with this storm generated long-period swell that propagated to the west coast of North America. National Data Buoy Center moored-buoy stations, located in a network that ranged from the Gulf of Alaska to the California Bight, provided wave spectral estimates of the swell from this storm. The greatest dominant wave periods measured were approximately 20–25 s, and significant wave heights measured ranged from 3 to 8 m. Wave spectra from an array of three nondirectional buoys are used to find the source of the long-period swell. Directional wave spectra from a heave-pitch-roll buoy are also used to make an independent estimate of the source of the swell. The ridge-line method, using time-frequency contour plots of wave spectral energy density, is used to determine the time of swell generation, which is used with the appropriate surface pressure analysis to infer the swell generation area. The diagnosed sources of the swell are also compared with nowcasts from the Global Spectral Ocean Wave Model of the Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center. A simple method of predicting the propagation of ocean swell, by applying a simple kinematic model of wave propagation to the estimated point and time source, is demonstrated.

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