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Applied stochastic models for ocean engineering, climate and safe transportation

Final Activity Report Summary - SEAMOCS (Applied stochastic models for ocean engineering, climate and safe transportation)

SEAMOCS is an interdisciplinary research training network that combines meteorology, ocean and coastal engineering, and marine safety with statistics and probability. Characterisation and reduction of uncertainties in climate models and the conclusions for society pose big challenges for climate research. SEAMOCS has been an instrument for increased cooperation in an area which requires knowledge of many different types.

Statistics is the science of variation. The research training in SEAMOCS combines the expertise at three statistics institutions with the research at three marine and coastal engineering institutes, two meteorological centres and one ship certifying and insurance company. The aim is to develop, test, and use modern statistical and computational techniques in marine applications in order to increase safety of marine transports, offshore installations, and coastal structural maintenance.

The research covers the whole chain, from statistical analysis and measurement techniques with wide applicability, global questions related to wind and wave climate on the oceans and how it is foreseen by global models for the future climate, description of local weather phenomena and their impact on marine shipping routes and on coastal installations, and, finally, how the knowledge should be applied for regulations of marine activities.

The wide scope of SEAMOCS has required an open exchange of ideas and problems, and much time has been spent on raising the awareness of existing and unsolved problems and possible technical solutions among the different partners, not only for the recruited researchers, but also among other many researchers active at the partner institutions.

An important part of the network activities has been the arrangement of major workshops, organized together with organizations like PIMS, Pacific institute of mathematical science, ENCORA, a European Coastal research network, and also including researchers involved in the work behind climate reports like IPCC AR4.

Part of the research concerns statistical treatment of extremes in climate and ocean data. Often this means to extrapolate outside the range of data that has ever been observed, or to predict future extreme winds, temperature or precipitation in computer simulation of complex climate models. Since extreme events also are rare, one needs large and costly computer experiments. Even if one can get reliable estimates of, for example, mean temperature, it is very difficult to make safe predictions far out in the end of the temperature scale. Improved methods to detect and predict changes in extreme weather events make up one group of SEAMOCS research results. This includes simulation studies and renewed analysis of global and regional climate model data, both historical and predicted for the future.

Specific research related to ocean climate and marine safety concerns classification of wave systems and how they depend on wind patterns. For example, how dangerous is it for a ship to cross an area where waves coming from very different directions meet. It is well known that severe ship accidents have occurred in such 'crossed seas', but how shall these conditions be detected and characterized, and how likely is it that they occur?

Freak waves, also called monster waves, are known to lie behind many ship disasters, but it is still an unsolved problem how to calculate a probability for their occurrence under different weather conditions. Also quite normal wave conditions cause damage to ships through wave induced fatigue. SEAMOCS has produced interesting results on statistical description of extreme waves and on fatigue damage on ship routes.

By increased regional traffic with fast ferries, coastal erosion has become a major problem in many areas. SEAMOCS researchers performed many model studies and field experiments on the generation and consequences of ferry generated waves along the Estonian coast.