VIDEO: Fair warning

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Don’t expect it as a smartphone app or a feature on the multifunction display at your helm station anytime soon, but some really smart people at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a prediction tool that may give mariners a 2- to 3-minute warning of an incoming rogue wave.

“It’s precise in the sense that it’s telling us very accurately the location and the time that this rare event will happen,” says Themis Sapsis, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “We have a range of possibilities, and we can say that this will be a dangerous wave and you’d better do something. That’s really all you need.”

Rogue waves can be eight times higher than the surrounding seas and can strike in otherwise calm waters with virtually no warning. They have been a mysterious scourge to mariners throughout history.

Take a look at the technology.

The tool, in the form of an algorithm, sifts through data from surrounding waves to spot clusters that may develop into a rogue wave. Depending on a wave group’s length and height, the algorithm computes a probability that the group will turn into a rogue wave within the next few minutes.

The tool is designed for the commercial market, providing offshore crews withenough time to shut down essential operations on a ship or offshore platform.

Maybe this is the start of something big.