Long-Term Distributions of Ocean Waves: A Review

by Michael de St. Q. Isaacson, (M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1W5 Canada,
Neil G. MacKenzie, Civ. Engr.; Swan Wooster Engrg. Co., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada,

Serial Information: Journal of the Waterway Port Coastal and Ocean Division, 1981, Vol. 107, Issue 2, Pg. 93-109

Document Type: Journal Paper


The various steps involved in the estimation of an extreme design wave are reviewed. These include the following: methods of data collection, the use of a plotting formula, the selection of a suitable distribution and its parameters, the plotting of confidence bands about the best-fit line, and the selection of a design wave corresponding to a prescribed return period or encounter probability. The probability distributions commonly used, including the log-normal and Extremal Types I, II, and III distributions (Gumbel, Fretchet, and Weibull respectively), are described, and their properties are summarized in tabular form for ready reference.

Subject Headings: Ocean waves | Probability distribution | Probability | Data collection | Parameters (statistics)

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