In a new study on ocean wave breaking, researchers have demonstrated that the breaking behavior of axisymmetric “spike waves” is quite different to the long-established theories on the breaking of traveling waves.

Traveling waves break when waves become so steep that the crest is no longer stable. This leads to a breakdown of wave motion and energy loss. As a result, the height of the wave is limited by the breaking process.

“Much of our understanding of wave breaking is routed in theories developed and experiments carried out in two dimensions when waves are moving in one direction,” explained lead author Dr. Mark McAllister, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford. “However, wave breaking in the ocean is a three-dimensional process.” Read on.