A Note on the Second-Order Contribution to Extreme Waves Generated during Hurricanes

Mark L. McAllister, Thomas A.A. Adcock, Paul H. Taylor, Ton S. Van Den Bremer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


High wind speeds generated during hurricanes result in the formation of extreme waves. Extreme waves by nature are steep meaning that linear wave theory alone is insufficient in understanding and predicting their occurrence. The complex, highly transient nature of the direction of wind and hence of waves generated during hurricanes affects this nonlinear behavior. Herein, we examine how this directionality can affect the second-order nonlinearity of extreme waves generated during hurricanes. This is achieved through both deterministic calculations and experiments based on the observations of Young (2006, "Directional Spectra of Hurricane Wind Waves," J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 111(C8), epub). Our calculations show that interactions between the tail and peak of the spectrum can become significant when they travel in different directions, resulting in second-order difference components that exist in the linear range of frequencies. These calculations are generally supported by experimental observations, but we note the difficulty of generating and focusing the high-frequency tail of the spectrum experimentally. Bound second-order difference components or subharmonics typically exist as low frequency infra-gravity waves. Components that exist in the linear range of frequencies may be missed by conventional methods of processing field data where low-pass filtering is used and hence overlooked. In this note, we show that in idealized directional spreading conditions representative of a hurricane, failing to account for second-order difference components may lead to underestimation of extreme wave height.

Original languageEnglish
Article number041102
JournalJournal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


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