What Makes a Monster Wave?

Light gives scientists clues into sudden ocean behemoths
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2007 10:45 PM CST
A giant wave hits the shore near the Nanfangaou fish harbor in Taiwan.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Stories of 100-foot ocean waves have existed in our cultural memory for centuries, but a new finding may get to the bottom of these sea behemoths, Reuters reports. Similar phenomena have been observed in light waves, according to a study in the journal Nature, and scientists say they hope they can use those findings to predict ocean waves.

Studying optical waves traveling in glass, scientist Daniel Solli found occurrences of brief pulses of intense light. He saw a strong similarity between equations describing freak water waves and his light phenomena, and a mechanism for generating either: "Essentially there is a sweet spot. … If you tickle the wave on this particular spot, it develops into one of these rogue waves."