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Keywords:

  • wave breaking;
  • dissipation rate;
  • remote sensing

[1] Energy dissipation by breaking water waves is quantified indirectly using remote observations (digital video recordings) and directly using in situ observations (acoustic Doppler velocity profiles). The analysis is the first validation using field data to test the Duncan-Phillips formulation relating energy dissipation to the spectral distribution of whitecap speeds and lengths. Energy dissipation estimates are in agreement over two orders of magnitude, and demonstrate a promising method for routine observation of wave breaking dynamics. Breaking statistics are partitioned into contributions from waves at the peak of the wave-height spectrum and waves at higher frequencies in the spectrum. Peak waves are found to be only 10% of the total breaking rate, however peak waves contribute up to 75% of the total dissipation rate. In addition, breaking statistics are found to depend on the peak wave steepness and the energy input by the wind.