The evolution of steep waves in the open ocean is nonlinear. In narrow-banded but directionally spread seas, this nonlinearity does not produce significant extra elevation but does lead to a large change in the shape of the wave group, causing, relative to linear evolution, contraction in the mean wave direction and lateral expansion. We use the nonlinear Schrödinger equation (NLSE) to derive an approximate analytical relationship for these changes in group shape. This shows excellent agreement with the numerical results both for the NLSE and for the full water wave equations. We also consider the application of scaling laws from the NLSE in terms of wave steepness and bandwidth to solutions of the full water wave equations. We investigate these numerically. While some aspects of water wave evolution do not scale, the major changes that a wave group undergoes as it evolves scale very well.
- Received January 17, 2012.
- Accepted March 28, 2012.
- This journal is © 2012 The Royal Society