This paper describes a new series of laboratory observations, undertaken in a purpose built wave flume, in which a number of scaled simulations of realistic ocean spectra were allowed to evolve over a range of mild bed slopes. The purpose of the study was to examine the distribution of wave heights and its dependence on the local water depth, d, the local bed slope, m, and the nature of the input spectrum; the latter considering variations in the spectral peak period, Tp, the spectral bandwidth and the wave steepness. The results of the study show that for mild bed slopes the statistical distributions of wave heights are effectively independent of both the bed slope and the spectral bandwidth. However, the peak period plays a very significant role in the sense that it alters the effective water depth. Following detailed comparisons with the measured data, the statistical distributions for wave heights in relatively deep water are found to be in reasonable agreement with the Forristall [1] and Glukhovskii [2] distributions. For intermediate water depths, the Battjes & Groenendijk [3] distribution works very well. However, for the shallowest water depths none of the existing distributions provides good agreement with the measured data; all leading to an over-estimate of the largest wave heights.

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