This paper addresses two issues with regard to nonlinear ocean waves. (1) The first issue relates to the often-confused differences between the coordinates used for the measurement and characterization of ocean surface waves: The surface elevation and the complex modulation of a wave field. (2) The second issue relates to the very different kinds of physical wave behavior that occur in shallow and deep water. Both issues come from the known, very different behaviors of deep and shallow water waves. In shallow water one often uses the Korteweg-deVries that describes the wave surface elevation in terms of cnoidal waves and solitons. In deep water one uses the nonlinear Schrödinger equation whose solutions correspond to the complex envelope of a wave field that has Stokes wave and breather solutions. Here I make clear the relationships between the two ways of characterizing surface waves. Furthermore, and more importantly, I address the issues of matching the two types of wave behavior as the wave motion passes from deep to shallow water, or vice versa. For wave measurements we normally obtain the surface elevation with a wave staff, resistance gauge or pressure recorder for getting time series. Remote sensing applications relate to the use of lidar, radar or synthetic aperture radar for obtaining space series. The two types of wave behavior can therefore crucially depend on where the instrument is placed on the “ground track” or “field” over which the lidar or radar measurements are made. Thus the matching problem from deep to shallow water is not only important for wave measurements, but also for wave modeling. Modern wave models [Osborne, 2010, 2018, 2019a, 2019b] that maintain the coherent structures of wave dynamics (solitons, Stokes waves, breathers, superbreathers, vortices, etc.) must naturally pass from deep to shallow water where the nature of the nonlinear physics, and the form of the coherent structures, change. I address these issues and more herein. This paper is directed towards the development of methods for the real time measurement of waves by shipboard radar and for wave measurements by airplane and helicopter using lidar and synthetic aperture radar. Wave modeling efforts are also underway.

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