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Abstract

Freak or rogue waves on the ocean seemingly appear from nowhere, cause severe damage to ships and offshore structures due to their large crest heights, and disappear at once. Since the Draupner wave measured on New Year's day 1995 finally confirmed the existence of freak waves, different models were developed to describe them. One deterministic model to investigate their occurrence is the nonlinear Schrödinger equation (NLS) describing the nonlinear evolution of wave train envelopes. Due to the modulation instability, also referred to as Benjamin-Feir instability, strong spatial localization of wave amplitude may arise and breather type solutions are hypothesized to form the dynamical back-bone of rogue waves. To test this hypothesis, breather type solutions of the NLS are compared to two extreme wave records: the Draupner wave recorded in central North Sea and the Yura wave recorded in the Sea of Japan. (© 2010 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)