CORVALLIS, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon coast is a fascinating place when it comes to the Pacific Ocean, but it also comes with some dangers.
“Sneaker waves don’t get a lot of attention. It’s kind of like a slow bleed. Every year a few people die because of sneaker waves,” said Tuba Ozkan-Haller, interim dean of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.
Oregon State University’s latest study now finds a link between storms over the Pacific and sneaker wave activity along the shoreline. Ozkan-Haller is a co-author of the study that could improve sneaker wave warnings along the West Coast.
“Scientifically speaking, we really are talking about a runup event. An event where the wave runs up shore and back down. What we’re trying to work towards is an indicator. A predictive index. And eventually I would love to have a predictive index that is localized,” Ozkan-Haller explained.
With this developing index, it would break down for specific locations. Ozkan-Haller said it’s “kind of like what we do with precipitation.”
Research needs to continue before this index goes live because there is very little data compiled with this type of ocean event.
King tides vs. sneaker waves: The need-to-know difference
“The index that we’ve created really needs to be tested. We need to find out whether it’s an accurate predictor and we want to make sure that doesn’t predict too many false positives,” said Ozkan-Haller.
In the meantime, the National Weather Service is a vital tool in staying safe along the coast when sneaker wave warnings are issued.
Your Portland weather forecast
“Oftentimes they (sneaker waves) hit on days where it’s a beautiful sunny day here. Because they are caused by storms far away. There’s no storm here and so a healthy respect for the ocean and maybe giving yourself more space than you might intuitively think you need” is the best way to stay safe along the coast, said Ozkan-Haller.
This study will continue to develop out of Oregon State University as more data becomes available and experiments continue to be conducted with a localized index scale test.