Breaking Waves

When scientists increased the height of the waves in the flow channel by moving the paddle faster in their big glass tank, they saw that the waves became very steep, collapsed, and formed breaking waves. The researchers found that the waves would break when the wave height exceeded one-seventh of the wavelength. In these circumstances the unstable wave breaks at the top, and masses of broken water cascade down its face.

Deepwater sailors have long described the front of a breaking wave as a waterfall. At sea this process is augmented by strong wind pressure from behind—the force that caused the wave in the first place. A yacht caught in a large breaking wave is liable to be pitched forward, out of control. Then the boat is not only subject to tons

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