Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
10 Mar 2016
Research article |  | 10 Mar 2016

Wave extreme characterization using self-organizing maps

Francesco Barbariol, Francesco Marcello Falcieri, Carlotta Scotton, Alvise Benetazzo, Sandro Carniel, and Mauro Sclavo

Abstract. The self-organizing map (SOM) technique is considered and extended to assess the extremes of a multivariate sea wave climate at a site. The main purpose is to obtain a more complete representation of the sea states, including the most severe states that otherwise would be missed by a SOM. Indeed, it is commonly recognized, and herein confirmed, that a SOM is a good regressor of a sample if the frequency of events is high (e.g., for low/moderate sea states), while a SOM fails if the frequency is low (e.g., for the most severe sea states). Therefore, we have considered a trivariate wave climate (composed by significant wave height, mean wave period and mean wave direction) collected continuously at the Acqua Alta oceanographic tower (northern Adriatic Sea, Italy) during the period 1979–2008. Three different strategies derived by SOM have been tested in order to capture the most extreme events. The first contemplates a pre-processing of the input data set aimed at reducing redundancies; the second, based on the post-processing of SOM outputs, consists in a two-step SOM where the first step is applied to the original data set, and the second step is applied on the events exceeding a given threshold. A complete graphical representation of the outcomes of a two-step SOM is proposed. Results suggest that the post-processing strategy is more effective than the pre-processing one in order to represent the wave climate extremes. An application of the proposed two-step approach is also provided, showing that a proper representation of the extreme wave climate leads to enhanced quantification of, for instance, the alongshore component of the wave energy flux in shallow water. Finally, the third strategy focuses on the peaks of the storms.

Short summary
The analysis presented in the paper aims at extending the classification capabilities of Self-Organizing Maps (SOM) within the context of ocean waves. Indeed, the intrinsic SOM difficulty in representing extremes of the wave climate is discussed and alternative strategies are proposed in order to represent the whole wave climate at a given location. Among them, a two-step SOM together with a double-side map provides the best results.