Statistical dynamical model to predict extreme events and anomalous features in shallow water waves with abrupt depth change

Andrew J. Majda, M. N.J. Moore, Di Qi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding and predicting extreme events and their anomalous statistics in complex nonlinear systems are a grand challenge in climate, material, and neuroscience as well as for engineering design. Recent laboratory experiments in weakly turbulent shallow water reveal a remarkable transition from Gaussian to anomalous behavior as surface waves cross an abrupt depth change (ADC). Downstream of the ADC, probability density functions of surface displacement exhibit strong positive skewness accompanied by an elevated level of extreme events. Here, we develop a statistical dynamical model to explain and quantitatively predict the above anomalous statistical behavior as experimental control parameters are varied. The first step is to use incoming and outgoing truncated Korteweg–de Vries (TKdV) equations matched in time at the ADC. The TKdV equation is a Hamiltonian system, which induces incoming and outgoing statistical Gibbs invariant measures. The statistical matching of the known nearly Gaussian incoming Gibbs state at the ADC completely determines the predicted anomalous outgoing Gibbs state, which can be calculated by a simple sampling algorithm verified by direct numerical simulations, and successfully captures key features of the experiment. There is even an analytic formula for the anomalous outgoing skewness. The strategy here should be useful for predicting extreme anomalous statistical behavior in other dispersive media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3982-3987
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2019


  • Extreme anomalous event
  • Matching Gibbs measures
  • Statistical TKdV model
  • Surface wave displacement
  • Surface wave slope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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