Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Applied Marine Physics (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Hans C. Graber

Second Committee Member

William M. Drennan

Third Committee Member

Brian K. Haus

Fourth Committee Member

C. Linwood Vincent

Fifth Committee Member

Robert E. Jensen


This study examines wind-generated ocean surface waves as measured by NOMAD-type buoys during the ONR-sponsored Impact of Typhoons on the Ocean in the Pacific (ITOP) field experiment in 2010. 1-D measurements from two new Extreme Air-Sea Interaction (EASI) NOMAD-type buoys were validated against measurements from established Air-Sea Interaction Spar (ASIS) buoys. Also, during ITOP, 3 drifting Miniature Wave Buoys, a wave measuring marine radar on the R/V Roger Revelle, and several overpasses of JASON-1 (C- and Ku-band) and -2 (Ku-band) satellite altimeters were within 100 km of either EASI buoy. These additional measurements were compared against both EASI buoys. Findings are in line with previous wave parameter inter-comparisons. A corroborated measurement of mean wave direction and direction at the peak of the spectrum from the EASI buoy is presented. Consequently, this study is the first published account of directional wave information which has been successfully gathered from a buoy with a 6 m NOMAD-type hull. This result may be applied to improve operational coverage of wave direction. In addition, details for giving a consistent estimate of sea surface elevation from buoys using strapped down accelerometers are given. This was found to be particularly important for accurate measurement of extreme waves. These technical studies established a high level of confidence in the ITOP wave measurements. Detailed frequency-direction spectra were analyzed. Structures in the wave field were described during the close passages of 4 major tropical cyclones (TC) including: severe tropical storm Dianmu, Typhoon Fanapi, Super Typhoon Megi, and Typhoon Chaba. In addition, significant swell was measured from a distant 5th TC, Typhoon Malakas. Changes in storm direction and intensity are found to have a profound impact on the wave field. Measurements of extreme waves were explored. More extreme waves were measured during TCs which coincided with times of increased wave steepness. The largest extreme waves, which are more impressive than the Draupner (aka Newyears) wave in terms of normalized wave height, were found to occur under circumstances which support the theory of modulation instability. It is suggested that swell and wind sea, as generated by complex TCs winds, may merge and/or couple in such a way to produce sea-states which are unstable. The largest extreme wave, which was over 21 m high, appears to have occurred under such circumstances. However, the development of unstable seas, and the possible connection between the occurrence of extreme waves and unstable seas, has yet to be confirmed.


Wind waves; Ocean waves; Waves; Hurricane; Buoy; Field Experiment