Feeds

Satellites track freak waves to Reunion

Working on an early warning system

The Power of One Infographic

The freak waves that smashed into Reunion Island last week were tracked by satellite as they raced across the Indian Ocean.

As many as six people are reported to be missing in the region after the waves demolished several piers in the port of Saint Pierre. Two of the missing are coastguards whose boat was capsized as they searched for fishermen who had been caught in the storm swell.

Image credit: ESA, IFREMER - BOOST Technologies

Satellite data from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveals that the swell, which reached as high as 11 metres, originated in a storm off the coast of South Africa, several days earlier.

Dr Bertrand Chapron of IFREMER, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, tracked the swell using ESA's Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument aboard the Envisat environmental observation satellite.

The instrument can track the so-called wave period. This measurement of the gap between wave peaks is indicative of the size of the wave - the longer period suggesting a larger wave, triggered by a more intense and extreme weather system.

SAR can spot waves with periods of between 12 and 25 seconds, the scientists said, and the wave that hit Reunion had a period of 19 seconds.

Chapron commented: "Swells are still surprise factors, which can unfortunately be deadly. The SAR Wave Mode product allows us to locate and systematically track swells globally. In the near future we anticipate using SAR wave data to predict their arrival time and intensity."

His colleague, Dr Fabrice Collard of France's BOOST Technologies, explained that although the swell was expected to hit Reunion, no one had predicted it would be so large. "[The waves] were predicted to be only a couple of metres," he said.

More from the ESA site here.®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.