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Presentation on theme: "Waves"— Presentation transcript:

1 Waves

2 Waves When undisturbed by wind (or some other factor such as an earthquake), the sea surface is naturally smooth! Waves are moving energy and begin as a disturbance – Wind blowing across the surface of the ocean generates most waves – Tides, turbidity currents, coastal landslides, calving icebergs, and sea floor movement can also cause waves

3 Waves In an ocean wave, energy is moving at the speed of the wave, but water is not! Waves move energy, with very little movement of particles (including water particles!) The water ‘associated’ with a wave does not move continuously across the sea surface!

4 Imagine a seagull resting on the ocean surface The bird moves in circles – up and forward as the tops of the waves move toward its position, and down and backward as tops of the waves move past Energy in the waves flows past the bird, but the gull and it’s patch of water move only a short distance Each circle is equal in diameter to the wave height

5 Orbital Waves The bigger the wave, the larger the size of the orbit The diameter of the orbit diminishes rapidly with depth Wave motion is negligible when orbits reach a diameter that is 1/23 of those at the surface

6 Wave motion is negligible below a depth of one half of the wavelength

7 Components of a Wave Ocean waves has distinct parts: – Wave crest: highest part of the wave above average water level – Wave trough: lowest part of the wave below average water level – Wave height: the vertical distance between a wave crest and its trough – Wavelength: the horizontal distance between 2 successive crests, or troughs


9 Making Waves Ocean waves are classified by – the disturbing force that creates them – the extent to which the disturbing force continues to influence the waves once they are formed – The restoring force that works to flatten them – Their wavelength

10 Making Waves Energy that causes waves to form is called a disturbing force Wind blowing across the ocean surface provides the disturbing force to generate capillary waves (waves <1.73 cm) and wind waves Landslides and tectonic processes (volcanic eruptions, faulting of the sea floor) are the disturbing forces for seismic sea waves, or tsunamis

11 Making Waves The restoring force seeks to return the water to flatness after a wave has formed in it; gravity provides the restoring force on all waves >1.73cm

12 Wavelength is the most useful measure of wave size

13 Deep vs. shallow water waves Waves moving through water deeper than ½ their wavelength are deep water waves – Example: A wind wave with a 20m wavelength is considered to be a deep water wave so long as it is passing through water >10m deep Waves in water shallower than ½ their wavelength are shallow water waves – Example: A wave with a 20m wavelength will act as a shallow-water wave if the water is <10m deep

14 Shallow water waves When a wave approaches the shore, its proximity to the bottom flattens out the orbits of water molecules Causes the water at the bottom to move back and forth; no longer in a circular pattern

15 Ocean Motion In the ocean, only capillary and wind waves can be deep water waves Why??? Remember, deep water waves occur when moving through water deeper than half their wavelength…


17 Gee, that’s just swell… Generally speaking, the longer the wavelength, the faster the wave When waves move away from their area of origination, wind speeds diminish and they eventually move faster than the wind Mature waves from a storm sort themselves into groups of waves with similar wavelengths and speeds as they outrun their smaller ‘relatives’

18 Gee, that’s just swell… This results in swells; uniform, symmetrical wind waves that have traveled out of their area of origination

19 When waves meet Because longer waves will outrun shorter waves, wind waves from different storm systems can interfere with one another When waves meet, they add to or subtract from one another Such interaction is called interference – Constructive: additive – Destructive: subtractive (cancellation)

20 Dude, constructive and destructive waves rule Surfers depend on constructive and destructive waves to generate their ‘wave sets’ Constructive interference between waves of different wavelengths create the sought-after big waves Destructive interference diminishes the waves and makes it easier for the surfer to swim back out

21 Constructive: crests of waves coincide Destructive: crest and trough of waves coincide


23 Going Rogue Occasionally, wind waves of many wavelengths can approach a single point/spot from different directions A huge wave crest develops suddenly from the constructive interference, generated a rogue wave Rogue waves are much larger than surrounding waves and can be extremely hazardous

24 Just how big can waves be?

25 The size of waves depends on: – Wind strength – Wind duration – Fetch (distance over which the wind blows) A strong wind must blow continuously in one direction for ~3 days for the largest waves to develop The greatest potential for large waves occurs beneath the strong and nearly continuous winds surrounding Antarctica

26 Some personal experience…

27 A photograph of a wave taken from the bridge 50 feet above sea level Photo taken here (bridge) 50 ft

28 ~70-foot wave crossing the Southern Ocean

29 Encountering ‘The Perfect Storm’ just north of Antarctica (Ross Sea, Southern Ocean)

30 When ocean waves encounter land Deep water waves change to shallow water waves as they approach the shore Once the wave passes over water whose depth is less than one half its wavelength, the wave “feels” the bottom When this happens, the circular motion of the water molecules in the wave is interrupted Orbits flatten to ellipses near the bottom

31 When ocean waves encounter land The wave’s energy must now be packed into less water depth, and so the wave crests become peaked, rather than rounded Interaction with the bottom slows the incoming wave, but waves behind it continue toward shore at their original speed This results in a “bunching up” of the waves, which decreases their wavelength, but increases their height

32 Surf’s Up! When the wave steepness reaches the 1:7 ratio (wave’s height is 7x it wavelength), the wave will break as surf

33 How to score an epic wave… Waves break along the shore in different ways Waves are influenced by: – The bottom slope (the steeper the slope, the more violent and toppling the wave) – Contour and composition of the bottom (gradually shoaling bottoms sap waves of their strength as the wave loses energy interacting with the bottom) – Localized winds and fetch

34 Why is surfing so much better along the west coast of the U.S. than the east? (no offense…) NOT Long Island

35 Waves refract when they approach a shore at an angle Waves usually approach the shore at an angle Different parts of the wave is at different depths, so the wave must bend, or refract as parts of the wave reaches shallower water and slows The slowing and bending of waves in shallow water is called wave refraction; the waves refract in a line nearly parallel to the shore

36 Waves refract when they approach a shore at an angle

37 Big Waves: Tsunamis The Japanese term for large, often destructive waves that occasionally roll into their harbors is tsunami (tsu = harbor; nami = wave) Tsunamis originate from sudden changes in the sea floor caused by tectonic activity (undersea volcanic eruptions, faulting, collapse of large oceanic volcanoes) and even underwater avalanches such as those caused by turbidity currents

38 Tsunamis The majority of tsunamis are caused by fault movement Underwater fault movement displaces the earth’s crust, generates earthquakes, and if it ruptures the seafloor, produces a sudden change in water level at the ocean surface (up or down) The wavelength of a tsunami is ~125 miles, so it is a shallow water wave everywhere in the ocean

39 Tsunamis In the open ocean, tsunamis travel at speeds >435 miles per hour Tsunamis in the open ocean have heights of only ~0.5 meters (~1.6 feet)! However, once they approach the shore, they slow in the shallow water and increase in wave height Surges ashore; mistaken for an extremely high tide and so mistakenly called tidal waves

40 Abrupt vertical movement along a fault on the sea floor raises or drops water column creating a tsunami that travels from deep to shallow water

41 Killer Waves 86% of all tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean (Why?) On December 26, 2004, an enormous earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia Occurred ~19 miles beneath the sea floor near the Sunda Trench, where the Indian Plate is being subducted beneath the Eurasian Plate Ruptured ~750 miles of sea floor!

42 Killer Waves This thrusted the seafloor upward, displacing >30 feet of water above it The resulting tsunami spread across the Indian Ocean, literally washing away many coastal villages and causing approximartely 300,000 human deaths in Indonesia (esp. Thailand) and along coastal India and Africa Although much smaller, the tsunami was also detected in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans!

43 Indonesian capital of Banda Aceh (before tsunami)

44 Indonesian capital of Banda Aceh (after tsunami)

45 Sequence of photos of tsunami inundating Chedi Resort in Phuket, Thailand on December 26, 2004

46 Japanese Tsunami: On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan at 2:46PM feet of sea floor were displaced upward The resulting tsunami reached a height of 133 feet and traveled inland up to six miles 15,844 confirmed dead 3,451 still missing shows-race-to-outrun-giant-wave/

47 Energy map of tsunami




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