Forecasting Sneaker Wave Events Through the Integration of Wave Phenomenon with the Beachgoer Decision Making Process

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 8:45 AM
Room C211 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Troy Nicolini, NOAA/NWS, Eureka, CA; and R. P. Aylward

Unexpected large ocean waves, frequently referred to as sneaker waves, kill more people on an annual basis than all other weather hazards combined for coastal NW California and portions of Coastal Oregon and Washington. These events are frequently fatal because they surprise beach goers and pull them fully clothed into the surf zone where survival is almost impossible because of the cold water, turbulent surf, and complex rip currents. Sneaker waves are an insidious extreme weather event because they occur suddenly after extended periods of smaller waves. These periods of smaller waves can last for twenty or more minutes causing beach goers to get too close to the surf. A method has been developed to categorically forecast sneakers waves based on the set behavior of long period waves and the lack of other contaminating wave systems that provide a natural warning. This later consideration highlights the importance the method places on factoring in how beach goers make decisions regarding their safety. Exacerbating and diminishing factors in the form of society considerations are also included in the forecast process. And finally, dissemination and messaging have been developed that address the insidious nature of the threat.