Linking Reduced Breaking Crest Speeds to Unsteady Nonlinear Water Wave Group Behavior

Observed crest speeds of maximally steep, breaking water waves are much slower than expected. Our
fully nonlinear computations of unsteadily propagating deep water wave groups show that each wave crest
approaching its maximum height slows down significantly and either breaks at this reduced speed, or
accelerates forward unbroken. This previously noted crest slowdown behavior was validated as generic in
our extensive laboratory and field observations. It is likely to occur in unsteady dispersive nonlinear wave
groups in other natural systems.

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