On the characteristics of observed coastal freak waves

Hwa Chien, Chia Chuen Kao, Laurence Z.H. Chuang

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92 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to describe the characteristics of occurrence of coastal freak waves and to investigate their statistical and spectral structures. According to Ochi's definition of freak wave, 175 coastal freak waves were obtained from a long-term full scale wave data bank, in which there are more than 4500 wave records. The probability distribution of occurrence of coastal freak waves was investigated. The goodness-of-fit testing shows that the Rayleigh distribution is more appropriate for describing the occurrence probability of coastal freak waves when the ratio of its wave height to the corresponding significant wave height is more than 2.4. However, the occurrence probability of coastal freak waves remains below the Rayleigh distribution. The relationship between coastal freak waves and the related sea states shows that the occurrence possibility of coastal freak waves may significantly increase in the sea of grouping waves or in the wave field of bimodal spectra. Wavelet Transform was applied to the in situ wave records to investigate the energy distribution on the time-frequency domain. It justified the previous conclusions and demonstrated that the wave groups and superposition of the swell and wind wave energy, which occupies 70% of the coastal freak samples, play major roles of inducing the coastal freak waves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-319
Number of pages19
JournalCoastal Engineering Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002


  • Extreme waves
  • Field observation
  • Freak waves
  • Wavelet transform analysis


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