February 1st, 2011 by Joshua S Hill
Waves have provided scientists with an inexplicable mystery for centuries now, wiping away entire coastlines or ships when waves shouldn’t have been able to. Researchers at Oregon State University together with colleagues at the Technical University of Delft have created a new way to study ocean waves by using two video cameras to feed data into an advanced computer system.
The new method can observe large areas of ocean waves in real time, and the researchers hope that the technique will help them understand what the waves are doing, and why.
Such a system will prove particularly valuable as climate change and rising sea levels pose additional challenges to low-lying coastal and island populations around the world.
“An ocean wave crashing on shore is actually the end of a long story that usually begins thousands of miles away, formed by wind and storms,” said David Hill, an associate professor of coastal and ocean engineering at Oregon State University. “We’re trying to achieve with cameras and a computer what human eyes and the brain do automatically – see the way that near-shore waves grow, change direction and collapse as they move over a seafloor that changes depth constantly.”
“A wave is actually a pretty difficult thing for a computer to see and understand,” added Hill. “Some things like speed are fairly easy to measure, but subtle changes in height, shape and motion as the waves interact with a changing ocean bottom, wind and sediments are much more difficult.”
Source: Oregon State University
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