Power, H.E.; Nielsen, P.; Hughes, M.G.; Aagaard, T., and Baldock, T.E., 2016. Wave height distributions in the surf zone on natural beaches. In: Vila-Concejo, A.; Bruce, E.; Kennedy, D.M., and McCarroll, R.J. (eds.), Proceedings of the 14th International Coastal Symposium (Sydney, Australia). Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 75, pp. 917–921. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Wave height distributions in the surf zone are examined using a large existing field dataset. Observed distributions are compared to the Rayleigh distribution, the Weibull distribution, and the normal distribution. In more than half the 15-minute data runs (57%), wave height distributions were statistically significantly different to a Rayleigh distribution, of which the majority were more narrowly distributed, with fewer extrema. In contrast, only 6% of distributions were statistically significantly different to a normal distribution. The distributions were observed to become narrower with decreasing depth. Data were subsequently fitted to a Weibull distribution with a varying exponent to allow for a change in the shape of the distribution with changing depth. The data show distributions with a wide range of exponents, but a mean of 2.4 indicating that, on average, data are more narrowly distributed than a Rayleigh distribution (exponent of 2). The value of the exponent was observed to increase in shallower water, with a strong inverse correlation between depth and the exponent.