# Ursell number

In fluid dynamics, the Ursell number indicates the nonlinearity of long surface gravity waves on a fluid layer. This dimensionless parameter is named after Fritz Ursell, who discussed its significance in 1953.[1]

The Ursell number is derived from the Stokes wave expansion, a perturbation series for nonlinear periodic waves, in the long-wave limit of shallow water – when the wavelength is much larger than the water depth. Then the Ursell number U is defined as:

${\displaystyle U\,=\,{\frac {H}{h}}\left({\frac {\lambda }{h}}\right)^{2}\,=\,{\frac {H\,\lambda ^{2}}{h^{3}}},}$

which is, apart from a constant 3 / (32 π2), the ratio of the amplitudes of the second-order to the first-order term in the free surface elevation.[2] The used parameters are:

• H : the wave height, i.e. the difference between the elevations of the wave crest and trough,
• h : the mean water depth, and
• λ : the wavelength, which has to be large compared to the depth, λh.

So the Ursell parameter U is the relative wave height H / h times the relative wavelength λ / h squared.

For long waves (λh) with small Ursell number, U ≪ 32 π2 / 3 ≈ 100,[3] linear wave theory is applicable. Otherwise (and most often) a non-linear theory for fairly long waves (λ > 7 h)[4] – like the Korteweg–de Vries equation or Boussinesq equations – has to be used. The parameter, with different normalisation, was already introduced by George Gabriel Stokes in his historical paper on surface gravity waves of 1847.[5]

Wave characteristics.

## Notes

1. ^ Ursell, F (1953). "The long-wave paradox in the theory of gravity waves". Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 49 (4): 685–694. Bibcode:1953PCPS...49..685U. doi:10.1017/S0305004100028887.
2. ^ Dingemans (1997), Part 1, §2.8.1, pp. 182–184.
3. ^ This factor is due to the neglected constant in the amplitude ratio of the second-order to first-order terms in the Stokes' wave expansion. See Dingemans (1997), p. 179 & 182.
4. ^ Dingemans (1997), Part 2, pp. 473 & 516.
5. ^ Stokes, G. G. (1847). "On the theory of oscillatory waves". Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 8: 441–455.
Reprinted in: Stokes, G. G. (1880). Mathematical and Physical Papers, Volume I. Cambridge University Press. pp. 197–229.

## References

• Dingemans, M. W. (1997). "Water wave propagation over uneven bottoms". Nasa Sti/recon Technical Report N. Advanced Series on Ocean Engineering. 13: 25769. Bibcode:1985STIN...8525769K. ISBN 978-981-02-0427-3. In 2 parts, 967 pages.
• Svendsen, I. A. (2006). Introduction to nearshore hydrodynamics. Advanced Series on Ocean Engineering. 24. Singapore: World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-256-142-8. 722 pages.
Bahama Banks

The Bahama Banks are the submerged carbonate platforms that make up much of the Bahama Archipelago. The term is usually applied in referring to either the Great Bahama Bank around Andros Island, or the Little Bahama Bank of Grand Bahama Island and Great Abaco, which are the largest of the platforms, and the Cay Sal Bank north of Cuba. The islands of these banks are politically part of the Bahamas. Other banks are the three banks of the Turks and Caicos Islands, namely the Caicos Bank of the Caicos Islands, the bank of the Turks Islands, and wholly submerged Mouchoir Bank. Further southeast are the equally wholly submerged Silver Bank and Navidad Bank north of the Dominican Republic.

Boussinesq approximation (water waves)

In fluid dynamics, the Boussinesq approximation for water waves is an approximation valid for weakly non-linear and fairly long waves. The approximation is named after Joseph Boussinesq, who first derived them in response to the observation by John Scott Russell of the wave of translation (also known as solitary wave or soliton). The 1872 paper of Boussinesq introduces the equations now known as the Boussinesq equations.The Boussinesq approximation for water waves takes into account the vertical structure of the horizontal and vertical flow velocity. This results in non-linear partial differential equations, called Boussinesq-type equations, which incorporate frequency dispersion (as opposite to the shallow water equations, which are not frequency-dispersive). In coastal engineering, Boussinesq-type equations are frequently used in computer models for the simulation of water waves in shallow seas and harbours.

While the Boussinesq approximation is applicable to fairly long waves – that is, when the wavelength is large compared to the water depth – the Stokes expansion is more appropriate for short waves (when the wavelength is of the same order as the water depth, or shorter).

Carbonate platform

A carbonate platform is a sedimentary body which possesses topographic relief, and is composed of autochthonic calcareous deposits. Platform growth is mediated by sessile organisms whose skeletons build up the reef or by organisms (usually microbes) which induce carbonate precipitation through their metabolism. Therefore, carbonate platforms can not grow up everywhere: they are not present in places where limiting factors to the life of reef-building organisms exist. Such limiting factors are, among others: light, water temperature, transparency and pH-Value. For example, carbonate sedimentation along the Atlantic South American coasts takes place everywhere but at the mouth of the Amazon River, because of the intense turbidity of the water there. Spectacular examples of present-day carbonate platforms are the Bahama Banks under which the platform is roughly 8 km thick, the Yucatan Peninsula which is up to 2 km thick, the Florida platform, the platform on which the Great Barrier Reef is growing, and the Maldive atolls. All these carbonate platforms and their associated reefs are confined to tropical latitudes. Today's reefs are built mainly by scleractinian corals, but in the distant past other organisms, like archaeocyatha (during the Cambrian) or extinct cnidaria (tabulata and rugosa) were important reef builders.

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In fluid dynamics, a cnoidal wave is a nonlinear and exact periodic wave solution of the Korteweg–de Vries equation. These solutions are in terms of the Jacobi elliptic function cn, which is why they are coined cnoidal waves. They are used to describe surface gravity waves of fairly long wavelength, as compared to the water depth.

The cnoidal wave solutions were derived by Korteweg and de Vries, in their 1895 paper in which they also propose their dispersive long-wave equation, now known as the Korteweg–de Vries equation. In the limit of infinite wavelength, the cnoidal wave becomes a solitary wave.

The Benjamin–Bona–Mahony equation has improved short-wavelength behaviour, as compared to the Korteweg–de Vries equation, and is another uni-directional wave equation with cnoidal wave solutions. Further, since the Korteweg–de Vries equation is an approximation to the Boussinesq equations for the case of one-way wave propagation, cnoidal waves are approximate solutions to the Boussinesq equations.

Cnoidal wave solutions can appear in other applications than surface gravity waves as well, for instance to describe ion acoustic waves in plasma physics.

Deaths in May 2012

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Dimensionless numbers in fluid mechanics

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Fritz Ursell

Fritz Joseph Ursell FRS (28 April 1923 – 11 May 2012) was a British mathematician noted for his contributions to fluid mechanics, especially in the area of wave-structure interactions. He held the Beyer Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester from 1961–1990, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1972 and retired in 1990.

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Ursell

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Fritz Ursell (1923–2012), British mathematician

Harold Ursell (1907–1969), English mathematician

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