Wave Measurement Evaluation (WME)

In 2008, the JCOMM Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP), in cooperation with the JCOMM Expert Team on Waves and Surges (ETWS) and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) organized a workshop in New York, NY to discuss the requirements for improved wave measurements to address a large range of user needs including:

  • Assimilation into offshore wave forecast models 
  • Validation of wave forecast models (and hindcast and reanalysis)
  • Calibration / validation of satellite wave sensors 
  • Ocean wave climate and variability 
  • Role of waves in coupling 
  • Coastal zone modelling – erosion, sediment transport, inundation etc.
  • Wave power resource assessment
  • Port and harbour operations

The workshop focused on topics of significant interest including (1) requirements for wave observations; (2) existing technology and their limitations; (3) operational aspects; (4) potential for new cost-effective technology for drifters and moorings.
At its 24th Session, October 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa, the DBCP created the Pilot Project on Wave measurement Evaluation and Test (PP-WET), with the intention to develop the basis for the continuous testing and evaluation of existing/planned wave buoy measurements, in order to establish confidence in the user community of the validity of wave measurements from the various moored buoy systems. Details on the background, objectives and methodology for the Pilot Project are given in the following paragraphs.
The Pilot Project successfully wrapped up in 2016, as reported at the DBCP-32 in La Jolla, CA, but work to address the ongoing issues of wave measurements formed the basis for the creation of a new Task Team on Wave Measurements (TT-WM), in particular the continuation of the intercomparison activities.

Go to the Intercomparison page (supported by CDIP)

Online input for Intercomparison Metadata (by CDIP)

Go to 2008 JCOMM Technical Workshop on Wave Measurement

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DBCP Pilot Project on Wave measurement Evaluation and Test (PP-WET)


Swail et al. (2010) noted that continuous testing and evaluation of operational and pre-operational measurement systems is an essential component of a global wave observing system, equal in importance to the deployment of new assets. The overriding objective of this evaluation is to ensure consistent wave measurements to a level of accuracy that will serve the requirements of the broadest range of wave information users. Inter-platform tests have been pursued in the past (O’Reilly et al, 1996; Teng and Bouchard, 2005), however with the global variations in hull, sensors and processing systems, evolution of sensors, changes in buoy designs, and new platform systems, a fresh look is required.

Discrepancies in wave observations. Bias (altimeter – in situ), symmetric slope (ratio of variance altimeter to variance in situ)

The Figure graphically illustrates the need for evaluation, as noted by recent investigations (Queffelou, 2006; Durrant et al., 2009), where large systematic differences are seen between different observing networks, including a systematic 10% difference in significant wave height measurements between the U.S. and Canadian networks.

Objectives of the Pilot Project

  • Develop the basis for an international framework for the continuous testing and evaluation of existing and planned wave buoy measurements
  • Coordinate inter-comparison activities for wave measurements from buoys
  • Establish confidence in the user community of the validity of wave measurements from the various moored buoy systems
  • Contribute appropriate material to the JCOMM Standards and Best Practice Guide
  • Develop technical documentation of differences due to hull, payload, mooring, sampling frequency and period, processing (e.g. frequency bands & cutoff), precision, transmission


Establishment of guidelines of best practices for wave measurements from buoys would be an important step in making the buoy measurements consistent across various networks and instrumentation types.
The 2008 New York workshop concluded that there is no "perfect" or gold standard wave measurement system presently available against which to inter-compare other types of wave measurement. However, the Datawell sensors were viewed in consensus as the best available and most widely used and should form the basis for comparisons. If measurement technology improves the standard can be updated some time in the future.
Expanding wave observing capabilities to other parts of the worlds could be desirable from an operational point of view for the areas of interest (where waves are a key parameter for marine activities).
In order to serve the full range of users, a wave observation network should accurately resolve the details of the directional spectral wave field as well as providing the standard integrated parameters. It is strongly recommended that all directional wave measuring devices should reliably estimate the so-called “First 5” standard parameters (see Community White Paper for OceanObs'09 for details). US IOOS Operational Wave Observation Plan (September 2007) and its related documents including the March 2007 US Wave Sensor Technologies Workshop provides a baseline for the procedure.

  • Establish a Pilot Project Steering Committee comprising a wide representation from end-users, wave experts, and buoy operators, with open attendance of buoy manufacturers
  • Implement workplans that
    • Establishes standards for the intercomparison of moored buoy wave measurements
    • Documents existing and planned procedures for moored buoy wave measurements
    • Establishes standards and contributes to development of guidelines for best practices for wave data and metadata
  • Continue consulting with buoy network operators, manufacturers and potential end-users (e.g. global wave modellers, satellite operators, forecasters) to undertake coordinated evaluations of buoy wave measurements according to the agreed-on standard.
  • Engage with other operators and end-users to seek contributions (cash and in-kind)
  • Present results (written reports, conference presentations, scientific publications) to scientific and technical fora


This Pilot Project was co-funded by Environment Canada, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the  Republic of Korea through the UNESCO extrabudgetary project on “Enhancing regional capabilities for Coastal Hazards Forecasting and Data Portal Systems”. 

The Pilot Project was developed in cooperation with the JCOMM Expert Team on Wind Waves and Storm Surges (ETWS).

Reference documents for intercomparison exercise

Scientific and Technical References

Wave measurements, needs and developments for the next decade. Swail, V., R. Jensen, B. Lee, J. Turton, J. Thomas, S. Gulev, M. Yelland, P. Etala, D. Meldrum, W. Birkemeier, W. Burnett and G. Warren, 2010: Community White Paper for OceanObs'09, 21 -25 September 2009, Venice, Italy.

A Comparison of Methods for Determining Significant Wave Heights—Applied to a 3-m Discus Buoy during Hurricane Katrina;Bender III, L. C., N. L. Guinasso Jr. and J. N. Walpert,(2010). Journal Of Atmospheric And Oceanic Technology Volume 27, 1012-1028.

In Situ Wave Measurements: Sensor Comparison and Data Analysis, Collins, Clarence O. III (2012). Open Access Theses. Paper 372.

A National Wave Observation Plan. Alliance for Coastal Technologies. March 2009

Wave Measurement Systems Test and Evaluation Protocols in Support of National Operational Wave Observation Plan (2012). Alliance for Coastal Technologies.

Datawell Waverider Reference Manual: WR-SG, DWR-MkIII, DWR-G (October 10, 2009)

Wave modelling in coastal and inner seas(2018). Cavaleri, Luigi & Abdalla, S & Benetazzo, Alvise & Bertotti, Luciana & Bidlot, Jean & Breivik, Oyvind & Carniel, Sandro & Jensen, R.E. & Portilla-Yandun, Jesus & Rogers, W.E. & Roland, Aron & Sanchez-Arcilla, A & Smith, Jane & Staneva, Joanna & Toledo, Yaron & Vledder, Gerbrant & van der Westhuysen, A.J... Progress in Oceanography. Volume 167, 164-233.

Quantifying wave measurement differences in historical and present wave buoy systems; Jensen, R.E., Swail, V.R. & Bouchard, R.H., 2021. Ocean Dynamics 71(6-7), 731 – 755.

Spectral shapes and parameters from three different wave sensors. Magnusson, A.K., Jensen, R.E & Swail, V.R., 2021. Ocean Dynamics 71(9), 893-909.

Observing sea states. Ardhuin, F., Stopa, J., Chapron, B., Collard, F., Husson, R., Jensen, R.E., Johannessen, J., Mouche, A., Passaro, M., Quartly, G.D., Swail, V. and Young, I., 2019. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:124.

USACE Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory Quality Controlled, Consistent Measurement Archive. Hall, C. & R.E. Jensen. 2022. Scientific Data 9:248

Performance evaluation of the newly operational NDBC 2.1-m hull. Hall, C., Jensen, R.E. & D.W. Wang. 2022. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. Vol. 39, 6; 861–880

Tilt Error in NDBC Ocean Wave Height Records. C. O. Collins III and R. E. Jensen. 2022. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 39, 7: 915-928

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Manuals and Guides

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Reports to DBCP sessions on Wave measurement

Event Date Venu

37th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

8-11 Nov. 2021


36th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

5-9 Oct. 2020


35th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

14-18 Oct. 2019

Geneva, Switzerland

34th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

23-26 Oct. 2018

Cape Town, South Africa

33rd Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

14-17 Nov. 2017

Plouzane, France

32nd Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

17-21 Sep. 2016

La Jolla, USA

31st Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

19-23 Oct. 2015

Geneva, Switzerland

30th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

27-31 Oct. 2014

Weihai, China

29th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel

23-27 Sep. 2013

Paris, France

28th session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel

2-6 Oct. 2012

Fremantle, Australia

27th session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel

26-30 Sep. 2011

Geneva, Switzerland

26th session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

27-30 Sep. 2010

Oban, Scotland

25th Session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

28 Sep. - 1 Oct. 2009

Paris, France

24th session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

13-16 Oct. 2008

Cape Town, South Africa

23rd session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel 

15-19 Oct. 2007

Jeju, Republic of Korea

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DBCP Technical Workshop presentations

DBCP-36 S&T Workshop (October 2020)

Lancelot Braasch , Verena Hormann, Sid Thurston)

DBCP-34 S&T Workshop (October 2018)

DBCP-32 S&T Workshop (October 2016)

DBCP-31 S&T Workshop (October 2015)

DBCP-29 S&T Workshop (September 2013)

DBCP-28 S&T Workshop (October 2012)

DBCP-27 S&T Workshop (September 2011)

DBCP-25 S&T Workshop (September 2009 )

 DBCP-24 S&T Workshop (October 2008 )

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Presentations at Scientific and Technical fora

JCOMM Technical Workshop on Wave Measurements from Buoys:

JCOMM Training Workshop on Marine Instrumentation for the Regional Association IV (March 2016)

JCOMM Marine Instrumentation Workshop for the Asia-Pacific Region (July 2011)

MARCDAT-III: 3rd Workshop on Advances in the Use of Historical Marine Climate Data (May 2011)

16th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting (November 2019; http://www.waveworkshop.org )

The Legacy of FLOSSIE (Field Laboratory for Ocean Sea State Investigation and Experimentation) Evaluation of Wave Measurements Onboard a 6N NOMAD. Robert E. Jensen, V. Swail, R.H. Bouchard, S.C. Dillon, C. Hall and S. DiNapoli. Download Presentation

Wave spectral shapes and parameters as measured by three different wave sensors. Anne Karin Magnusson, Robert E. Jensen and V. Swail. Download Presentation

Further Study on the Accuracy of NDBC Wave Measurements and Their Possible Impact on Wave Climate Trends. Richard H. Bouchard and Robert E. Jensen. Download Presentation

Comparison of the performance and characteristics of MetOcean and TriAxys Wave Buoys. Jane Warne and Joel Cabrie. Download Presentation

On the concurrency of wave and crest height characteristics at two neighbouring wave buoys. Ole Johan Aarnes, Birgitte Furevik, Anne Karin Magnusson, Odin Gramstad, Elzbieta Bitner-Gregersen and Harald Tholo. Download Presentation

A spectral description for extreme sea states offshore Denmark: Part I Power spectral density function. Kevin Ewans, Hans Hansen and Allan Rod Zeeberg. Download Presentation

Lagrangian Measurement of Waves by Buoys. M.L. McAllister and T.S. van den Bremer. Download Presentation

Innovations in low-cost metocean buoys for aerial deployments. Pieter Smit and Tim Janssen. Download Presentation

CDIP Wave Observations and Coastal Inundation Forecasting. James Behrens, EricTerrill, Mark Merrifield and Robert Jensen. Download Presentation

Several improvements in the methods for estimating directional spectra observed with a submerged Doppler-type directional wave meter. Noriaki Hashimoto. Download Presentation

Design of a Generation-to-Shoreline Monitoring Network using Drifting Wave Buoys. Sophia Merrifield, Tony DePaolo, Mark Otero, Allison Ho and Eric Terrill.

Sentinel-1, WAVEWATCH III and buoy spectral comparisons in the Southern Ocean. Salman Khan, Emilio Echevarria and Mark Hemer. Download Presentation

15th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting (September 2017; http://www.waveworkshop.org )

  • Quantifying Wave Measurement Differences in Historical and Present Wave Buoy Systems. R.E. Jensen, V. Swail, R.H. Bouchard and B. Bradshaw. Download Presentation.
  • Field Evaluation of the Wave Module for NDBC’s New Self-Contained Ocean Observing Payload (SCOOP) on Modified NDBC Hulls. Richard Bouchard, Rodney R. Riley, Lex A. LeBlanc, Michael Vasquez, Michael Robbie, Robert E. Jensen, Mary A. Bryant and Laura A. Fiorentino. Download Presentation.
  • Correcting for Changes in the NDBC Wave Records of the United States. Elizabeth A. Livermont, Jon K. Miller and Thomas O. Herrington. Download Presentation.
  • Measuring the ‘First Five’ with HF radar. Lucy R Wyatt. Download Presentation.
  • The use and limitations of satellite remote sensing for the measurement of wind speed and wave height. Ian Young. Download Presentation

14th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting (November 2015; http://www.waveworkshop.org  )

  • Field Laboratory for Ocean Sea State Investigation and Experimentation: FLOSSIE Intra-Measurement Evaluation of 6N Wave Buoy Systems. R.E. Jensen, V.R. Swail, R. H. Bouchard, R.E. Riley, T.J. Hesser, M.Blaseckie and C. MacIsaac. Download Presentation
  • Long-term intercomparison between a Datawell Waverider buoy and an NDBC directional wave buoy: Part 1: the bulk sea state parameters. Richard H. Bouchard, Rodney E. Riley and Walt McCall. Download Presentation.
  • Short Term Statistics during ITOP. C.O. Collins III, T. Waseda and H.C. Graber. Download Presentation.
  • Spectral shape parameters in storm events from different data sources. Anne Karin Magnusson and Elzbieta Bitner-Gregersen. Download Presentation.
  • The provenance of the accuracy statement for NDBC’s wave direction measurements. Richard H. Bouchard. Download Presentation.
  • Trends and Changes in the NDBC Wave Records of the U.S. East Coast. Elizabeth A. Livermont, Jon K. Miller and Thomas O. Herrington. Download Presentation.
  • Observed orbital velocity of extreme waves and directional spectrum. Takuji Waseda, Keiji Kiyomatsu, Wataru Fujimoto, Peter Jansen, Eric Schulz, Alex Babanin and Henrique Rapizo. Download Presentation.
  • Current-induced wave modulations observed by a GPS wave buoy deployed near Kozu Island, Japan. Keiji Kiyomatsu and Takuji Waseda Download Presentation.
  • Ocean Wave Measurements by TerraSAR-X. Susanne Lehner, Andrey Pleskachevsky and Wolfgang Rosenthal. Download Presentation.
  • Surface wave measurements in space and time using coherent marine radars. Jochen Horstmann, Ruben Carrasco, Joerg Seemann and Michael Stresser. Download Presentation.
  • Validation of Marine X-band Radar's Multi-Directional Wave Retrieval Capabilities. Björn Lund, Hans C. Graber, Hitoshi Tamura and Clarence O. Collins III. Download Presentation
  • Modifying and Implementing an Inversion Algorithm for Shallow Water Wave Characteristics from a Broad-Beam HF Radar Network. Elizabeth A. Livermont, Thomas O. Herrington and Jon K. Miller. Download Presentation.
  • Spatial heterogeneity of wave fields. Johannes Gemmrich, Erick Rogers, Jim Thomson, Andrey Pleskachevsky and Susanne Lehner. Download Presentation

13th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting (October 2013; http://www.waveworkshop.org)

12th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting (November 2011; http://www.waveworkshop.org )

11th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting (October, 2009) http://www.waveworkshop.org )

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