As described nicely by an article in the New York Times, the two most likely explanations for the occurrence of rogue waves are when smaller waves merge to form large waves, and when storm-generated waves crash into ocean currents coming from the opposite direction.
British research west of Scotland measured waves up to 95 feet, and there have been claims of rouge waves up to 110 ft (as tall as the Statute of Liberty)
The phenomenon of rogue waves is still a matter of active research, so it is too early to say clearly what the most common causes are or whether they vary from place to place. The areas of highest predictable risk appear to be where a strong current runs counter to the primary direction of travel of the waves. Normally a large wave breaks up into smaller and smaller waves over time, until the viscosity of a fluid damps out these small waves. Now scientists speculate that the opposite can also happen in the ocean — tiny waves can concentrate together to become abnormally large waves. The largest rogue wave on record was 148 feet tall, observed near Sydney in 1998.
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