Why rogue waves occur atop abrupt depth transitions

Yan Li, Samuel Draycott, Yaokun Zheng, Zhiliang Lin, Thomas A.A. Adcock, Ton S. Van Den Bremer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Abrupt depth transitions (ADTs) have recently been identified as potential causes of 'rogue' ocean waves. When stationary and (close-to-) normally distributed waves travel into shallower water over an ADT, distinct spatially localized peaks in the probability of extreme waves occur. These peaks have been predicted numerically, observed experimentally, but not explained theoretically. Providing this theoretical explanation using a leading-order-physics-based statistical model, we show, by comparing to new experiments and numerical simulations, that the peaks arise from the interaction between linear free and second-order bound waves, also present in the absence of the ADT, and new second-order free waves generated due to the ADT.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberR5
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • surface gravity waves


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