Journal of Fluid Mechanics

A field experiment on the mechanics of irregular gravity waves

P. Boccotti a1, G. Barbaro a1 and L. Mannino a1
a1 Department of Fluid Mechanics and Offshore Engineering, University of Reggio Calabria, Via E. Cuzzocrea, 48, 89100 Reggio Calabria, Italy

Article author query
boccotti p   [Google Scholar] 
barbaro g   [Google Scholar] 
mannino l   [Google Scholar] 


In random wind-generated wave motion on the sea surface, extreme wave events have been shown theoretically to occur within groups with a well-defined configuration and time history that can be specified in terms of the space-time autocovariances of the surface displacement. The predictions of the theory have been tested in a field experiment in the Straits of Messina in which an array of nine wave gauges and nine pressure transducers supported by vertical piles provided space-time information on waves generated over a fetch of approximately 10 km. It was confirmed that the general configuration of the extreme wave groups measured was consistent with the theoretical predictions in terms of the measured space-time autocovariance. During the development stage of a group, as the height of the central (outstanding) wave grows to a maximum, the width of the wave front reduces to a minimum. As an individual wave passes through the group, its wavelength decreases as the wave height increases towards the apex, after which the wavelength increases again as the wave moves towards the front of the group and abates.

(Published Online April 26 2006)
(Received March 27 1991)
(Revised January 4 1993)