Image Processing Tools Applied to the Analysis of Ocean Surface Directional Wave Spectra

Jeffrey L. Hanson

The Johns Hopkins University
Applied Physics Laboratory


The extraction of detailed wave climatology information from ocean surface wave measurements and predictions is important for many applications including naval operations, offshore design, ship routing, and harbor safety. In these applications wave spectral partitioning methods may be employed to characterize the individual wave systems present. To date these techniques have required cumbersome algorithms with slow execution times. A new wave spectral partitioning method has been developed that uses image-processing tools to extract wave system information from directional wave spectra. Treating the spectrum as an inverse topographic domain, efficient watershed delineation algorithms quickly map out the spectral region associated with each wave system. Tracking these spectral domains over time allows development of a wave climatology in terms of the specific wind sea and swell events characteristic of the study region. As a significant improvement over previous methods, this capability has been added to the APL-WAVES software tools for ocean surface wave analysis.