16B.6 A Review of Wind and Wave Measurements from a NOAA Buoy during the Provincetown IV Ferry Incident of August 13, 2014

Friday, 3 July 2015: 11:45 AM
Salon A-5 (Hilton Chicago)
Richard H. Bouchard, NOAA/NDBC, Stennis Space Center, MS; and S. Cucullu, J. W. Dellicarpini, G. Field, P. C. Liu, A. V. Babanin, W. E. Rogers, D. W. Wang, G. Z. Forristall, and R. Beets

Handout (2.6 MB)

On August 13, 2014, the passenger ferry Provincetown IV was en route from Provincetown, MA to Boston, MA when it encountered large waves that smashed windows in the pilot house and temporarily disabled the engines, stranding the vessel about 5 miles off the coast of Scituate, MA. Two injuries were reported on board. The large waves were the result of an unusually strong low pressure system for mid-August, which tracked from the mid-Atlantic coast to the South Coast of New England that evening.

At the time of the incident, significant wave heights as reported from the nearby NOAA Buoy 44013 (known as the Boston buoy) were 5 to 6 feet. A general rule-of-thumb would estimate maximum wave heights on the order of 10 to 12 feet, which is far less than the estimated wave height of 20 feet initially reported. Since the pilot house is approximately 20 feet above the waterline, early reports categorized these waves as rogue waves. Rogue waves are generally defined as waves that are more than twice the height of the significant wave height. So seemingly, the Provincetown IV incident met the criterion for rogue waves. The buoy indicated significant steepening of the waves during the incident, and periods of reduced wind speeds that could contribute to the generation of rogue waves.

This presentation will describe the meteorological conditions that led to this event. The wind and wave data from Buoy 44013 are reviewed for indications of conditions conducive to the formation of rogue waves. The question of whether or not rogue waves can be accurately forecast will be discussed.

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