The paper is based on review of research articles by the authors, with the purpose to demonstrate that the modulational-instability mechanism is active in typical directional wave fields. If so, possible limits for the wave height due to such mechanism can be outlined. The modulational instability can lead to occurrence of very high waves, which either proceed to the breaking or appear as rogue events, but it was derived for and is usually associated with two-dimensional wave trains. There exists argument, both analytical and experimental, that this kind of instability is impaired or even suppressed in three-dimensional (directional) wave systems. The first part of the paper demonstrates indirect experimental evidences which relate the wave breaking in oceanic conditions to features of two-dimensional breaking waves due to modulational instability. The second section is dedicated to direct measurements of such instability-caused breaking in a directional wave tank with directional spread and mean steepness typical of those in the field. The last section provides conclusions on what is maximal height of an individual wave, depending on the mean wave steepness in a wave train/field, that can be achieved due to such non-linear evolution of wave trains.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.