Why do deep water waves sometimes break instead of just getting bigger?

3 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Water "particles" move in a circular pattern in deep water, with the "axis" parallel to the direction of motion of the wave and the circle is vertical (like a bicycle tire in motion). As the wave approaches the shore, the seafloor interferes with the circular pattern and causes the bottom of the circle to slow, which causes the upper portion to become higher (conservation of energy and momentum).

    Eventually the wave gets so high that it cannot "get enough water" to maintain itself, so it 'breaks'. This circular pattern of water motion in waves is reflected by the shape of the wave just before it breaks (the 'curl', and the 'pipe', I think they call it).

  • 1 decade ago

    The deep water waves breaking is a function of harmonics and gravity.

    Source(s): Physics
  • 1 decade ago

    b/c they cant get any higher, gravity is pulling them down

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