Nonlinear dynamics of wave-groups in random seas: Unexpected walls of water in the open ocean

T.A.A. Adcock, Paul Taylor, Scott Draper

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    37 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper investigates the size and structure of large waves on the open ocean. We investigate how nonlinear physics modifies waves relative to those predicted by a linear model. We run linear random simulations and extract extreme waves and the surrounding sea-state. For each extreme event, we propagate the waves back in time under linear evolution before propagating the wave-field forward using a nonlinear model. The differences between large linear and nonlinear wave-groups are then examined. The general trends are that under nonlinear evolution, relative to linear evolution, there is, on average, little or no extra amplitude in the nonlinear simulations; that there is an increase in the width of the crest of the wave-group and a contraction of large wave-groups in the mean wave direction; that large waves tend to move to the front of a wave-packet meaning that the locally largest wave is relatively bigger than the wave preceding it; and that nonlinearity can increase the duration of extreme wave events. In all these trends, there is considerable scatter, although the effects observed are clear. Our simulations show that nonlinearity does play an important part in the formation of extreme waves on deep water.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20150660
    Number of pages17
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
    Issue number2184
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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