Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2005

Abstract

A new wavelet analysis methodology is proposed to estimate the statistics of steep waves. The method is applied to open ocean wave height data from the Southern Ocean Waves Experiment (1992) and from a field experiment conducted at Duck, North Carolina (1997). Results show that high wave slope crests appear over a wide range of wavenumbers, with a large amount being much shorter than the dominant wave. At low wave slope thresholds, all wave fields have roughly the same amount of wave crests regardless of wind forcing. The steep wave statistic decays exponentially with the square of the wave slope threshold, with a decay rate that is larger for the low wind cases than the high wind cases. Comparison of the steep wave statistic with independent measurements of the breaking wave statistic suggests a breaking wave slope threshold of about 0.12. The steep wave statistic does not scale with the cube of the wind speed, suggesting that other factors besides the wind speed also affect its level. Comparison of the steep wave statistic to the saturation spectrum reveals a reasonable correlation at moderate wave slope thresholds.

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