Experimental study of the statistical properties of directionally spread ocean waves measured by Buoys

M. L. McAllister*, T. S. van Den Bremer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Wave-following buoys are used to provide measurements of free surface elevation across the oceans. The measurements they produce are widely used to derive wave-averaged parameters such as significant wave height and peak period, alongside wave-by-wave statistics such as crest height distributions. Particularly concerning the measurement of extreme wave crests, these measurements are often perceived to be less accurate. We directly assess this through a side-by-side laboratory comparison of measurements made using Eulerian wave gauges and model wave-following buoys for randomly generated directionally spread irregular waves representative of extreme conditions on deep water. This study builds on the recent work of McAllister and van den Bremer (2019, https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-19-0170.1), in which buoy measurements of steep directionally spread focused waves groups were considered. Our experiments confirm that the motion of a wave-following buoy should not significantly affect the measured wave crest statistics or spectral parameters and that the discrepancies observed for in situ buoy data are most likely a result of filtering. This filtering occurs when accelerations that are measured by the sensors within a buoy are converted to displacements. We present an approximate means of correcting the resulting measured crest height distributions, which is shown to be effective using our experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-414
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


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