MIT Researchers Develop AI Model to Predict Wave Behaviour, Improve Ocean Climate Simulations

Surfing is one of the most incredible events on the high seas that pumps enough adrenaline into our system to make us feel excited and anxious at the same time. Just seeing them from afar might be enough. However, surfers love the feel and ride of it. There is some amazing science behind how waves work. For example, waves break once they reach a critical height and then crash into a shower of drops and bubbles. Waves come in different sizes – they can be as large as a point break or as small as a ripple rolling ashore.

Scientists have long tried to understand how and when the wave breaks, but predicting it was very complicated. However, accurately assessing wave behavior has multiple benefits – from building better offshore platforms to predicting climate. Now, a group of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA have found a new way to model how waves break. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, they have modified equations that were previously used to design and build offshore platforms and structures. Unfortunately, the equations have not been able to solve the complexity of wave fracture.

The researchers say the new model can predict wave behavior more accurately. The model can evaluate the steepness of the wave shortly before refraction and its energy and frequency after refraction. The researchers say it can do this more accurately than the traditional wave equations used previously.

They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. Knowing precisely how waves behave in a given area can help better design offshore platforms, the researchers say.

Knowing how and when the waves break can help scientists work out how much carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gases the oceans can absorb. “The breaking of the waves is what pushes the air into the ocean,” said study author Themis Sabsis. “It might seem like a detail, but if you multiply its effect over an entire ocean area, the wave break starts to become fundamentally important for climate prediction.”

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