Scientists: Wave off Vancouver Island in 2020 was ‘once-in-a-millennium’ event

A wave that broke off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2020 has been dubbed a “once-in-a-millennium” event and is being called the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded, according to Canadian scientists.

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“Only a few rogue waves in high sea states have been observed directly, and nothing of this magnitude,” University of Victoria scientist Johannes Gemmrich, who co-led the research with Leah Cicon, said. “The probability of such an event occurring is once in 1,300 years.”

The wave was detected off the town of Ucluelet with a sensor buoy and measured 57.7 feet. Other swells around the same time were 19.6 feet tall.

Rogue waves are waves that are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves.

While there have been taller rogue waves recorded -- one in Norway was 84 feet -- the wave off Vancouver is considered more extreme because it was nearly three times larger than the waves around it.

Called ‘extreme storm waves’ by scientists the waves are unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

Most reports of extreme storm waves say they look like “walls of water.” They are often steep-sided with unusually deep troughs, the NOAA website explained.

University of Victoria scientists published a report of the wave in the academic journal Scientific Reports last week.