Can a submarine avoid a storm by sailing under it? How deep does it have to go to not be bothered by waves?

Commercial ships avoid sailing through storms. That’s just an unnecessary risk. Waves can wash something valuable from the deck, the crew is going to be in danger and it is just a whole different level of a bad day at work. However, submarines are not commercial ships – they may have to tackle the storm head on. But is it even possible to sneak underneath a storm? How deep do you have to go until you can’t even feel the waves?

Ohio-class submarines can reach the depths of 240 meters. Image credit: Johannes Geiger via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

It is actually a very interesting question. Obviously, storms energize a lot of water and it turns in a form of waves. Those waves crash back into the ocean and start raising again. Of course  the water underneath the surface is moving too. This means that submarines cross storms by doing what they do best – sailing completely submerged.

The deal is that the deeper you go, the less you can feel the waves. It is because waves are basically a bunch of water molecules rolling over each other. Half of the wave is already above the surface level. Another half is underneath it. The deeper you go, the base of the wave declines. It is a fascinating world of physics here and submarines had quite a bit of time to get used to it.

The depth of the influence of the waves depends on many factors. The stronger and bigger the waves are, the deeper you would have to go to avoid them. For example, in a body of water that’s 1 metre deep, a 3 metre long wave would move the water at the bottom. Meanwhile 0.5 metre long wave would not cause the water at the bottom to move.

The deeper you go, the smaller the waves you will encounter. Image credit: GregBenson via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

So how deep a submarine has to go depends on many factors. The rule of thumb is 30 metres – at this level you may still feel waves, but they are not going to bother anyone. And if they do, the boat can go even deeper. Ohio-class nuclear submarines can go as deep as 240 metres. There pretty much cannot be such waves that would cause trouble to a submarine at the depth of 50 meters.

Many former submarine sailors remember crossing the storm. At an appropriate depth the boat was completely stable and the crew couldn’t even tell that there is a storm happening above. That is one great advantage of serving in a submarine.

However, if absolutely necessary, big ships can also cross most of the storms. Sure, the ride is going to be unpleasant, but you got to do what you got to do. Long ships have active stability systems and are quite long to avoid seesawing on top of big waves.


Comment this news or article