Records of deep water sea surface elevation, even taken at high sampling rates, do not provide evidence for which waves in the record are breaking. Although a visual observation of steep random waves clearly shows even the beginning of a breaking event, the white capping and collapse of the front face of a breaking wave do not appear in any meaningful way in the output of an elevation gauge. Much research has been conducted in an attempt to find a way of detecting breaking events in an wave elevation record. Some criteria have been advanced, but most of them show quite low accuracy. Huang et al.  suggested that an analytical method, which they called the Phase-Time Method, might be used to detect breaking events. This study evaluates the power of the Phase-Time method in breaking wave detection. Large scale laboratory experiments are used to obtain a quality data set under a variety of deep water wave conditions. The physics of the Hilbert transform used in the Phase-Time Method are studied, and the method is explored as a breaking wave detection tool. A model of deep water breaking wave detection is developed and its limits are stated.
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