The breaking-limited (or depth-limited) approach is a traditional method to determine the maximum possible wave height for the design of coastal structures in the surf zone. It is well recognized that the maximum wave height in the surf zone is limited by wave breaking. The maximum possible wave height is usually determined from a breaker height formula. The present study was undertaken to examine the applicability of 14 existing breaker height formulas for computing the maximum possible wave heights. The existing breaker height formulas were examined against measured regular and irregular wave heights. A total of 17 863 data points from 30 sources of published experimental data were used to examine the formulas. The experiments cover a wide range of wave and bottom topography conditions including small-scale, large-scale, and field experiments. It was found that the errors of existing formulas for regular and irregular waves have the same tendency. The existing formulas give considerable underestimation of the maximum possible wave heights in shallow water. The top three formulas were modified by including a new form of relative depth into each formula. Overall, the modified formulas give a considerable better estimation than those of existing formulas.
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