Effects of Uncertainties on Extreme Wave Heights

by Marshall D. Earle, Sr. Oceanographer; Marine Environments Co., 10629 Crestwood Drive, Manassas, Va.,
Ledolph Baer, Manager; Coastal Waves Program, Office of Oceanography, National Ocean Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Rockville, Md. 20852,

Serial Information: Journal of the Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Division, 1982, Vol. 108, Issue 4, Pg. 456-478

Document Type: Journal Paper


The relative effects of uncertainties due to record lengths, natural variability, and measurement or hindcast errors on estimated extreme significant wave heights has been assessed objectively through simulation. The probability distributions describing extreme heights at a given return period have confidence intervals broader than those computed from typically used techniques and show substantial positive biases. Both the widths of the confidence intervals and the biases increase with the size of the total uncertainty which represents the combined effects of measurement or hindcast errors and natural variability. Tables and nomograms are provided for practical assessment of record lengths, natural variability and errors on extreme wave estimates.

Subject Headings: Errors (statistics) | Uncertainty principles | Wave measurement | Confidence intervals | Probability | Probability distribution

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