Wave–current interaction

In fluid dynamics, wave–current interaction is the interaction between surface gravity waves and a mean flow. The interaction implies an exchange of energy, so after the start of the interaction both the waves and the mean flow are affected.

For depth-integrated and phase-averaged flows, the quantity of primary importance for the dynamics of the interaction is the wave radiation stress tensor.

Wave–current interaction is also one of the possible mechanisms for the occurrence of rogue waves, such as in the Agulhas Current. When a wave group encounters an opposing current, the waves in the group may pile up on top of each other which will propagate into a rogue wave.[1][2]


Peregrine (1976) identifies five major sub-classes within wave–current interaction:

  • interaction of waves with a large-scale current field, with slow – as compared to the wavelengthtwo-dimensional horizontal variations of the current fields;
  • interaction of waves with small-scale current changes (in contrast with the case above), where the horizontal current varies suddenly, over a length scale comparable with the wavelength;
  • the combined wave–current motion for currents varying (strongly) with depth below the free surface;
  • interaction of waves with turbulence; and
  • interaction of ship waves and currents, such as in the ship's wake.

See also


  1. ^ Dysthe, Kristian; Krogstad, Harald E.; Müller, Peter (2008), "Oceanic rogue waves", Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, 40: 287–310, Bibcode:2008AnRFM..40..287D, doi:10.1146/annurev.fluid.40.111406.102203
  2. ^ Peregrine (1976)


  • Bretherton, F. P.; Garrett, C. J. R. (1968), "Wavetrains in inhomogeneous moving media", Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, 302 (1471): 529–554, Bibcode:1968RSPSA.302..529B, doi:10.1098/rspa.1968.0034
  • Bühler, O. (2014), Waves and mean flows (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-107-66966-6
  • Peregrine, D. H. (1976), "Interaction of water waves and currents", Advances in Applied Mechanics, 16, Academic Press, pp. 9–117, ISBN 978-0-12-002016-4
  • Phillips, O. M. (1977), The dynamics of the upper ocean (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-29801-6
  • Craik, A. D. D. (1988), Wave interactions and fluid flows, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-36829-4
  • Prandle, D. (1992), Dynamics and exchanges in estuaries and the coastal zone, Coastal and estuarine studies, 40, American Geophysical Union, ISBN 0-87590-254-5
  • Jonsson, I. G. (1990), "Wave–current interactions", in B. Le Méhauté and D. M. Hanes (ed.), Ocean Engineering Science, The Sea, 9A, Wiley Interscience, pp. 65–120, ISBN 0-471-11543-6
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.

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.

Coriolis–Stokes force

In fluid dynamics, the Coriolis–Stokes force is a forcing of the mean flow in a rotating fluid due to interaction of the Coriolis effect and wave-induced Stokes drift. This force acts on water independently of the wind stress.

This force is named after Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis and George Gabriel Stokes, two nineteenth-century scientists. Important initial studies into the effects of the Earth's rotation on the wave motion – and the resulting forcing effects on the mean ocean circulation – were done by Ursell & Deacon (1950), Hasselmann (1970) and Pollard (1970).

The Coriolis–Stokes forcing on the mean circulation in an Eulerian reference frame was first given by Hasselmann (1970):

to be added to the common Coriolis forcing Here is the mean flow velocity in an Eulerian reference frame and is the Stokes drift velocity – provided both are horizontal velocities (perpendicular to ). Further is the fluid density, is the cross product operator, where is the Coriolis parameter (with the Earth's rotation angular speed and the sine of the latitude) and is the unit vector in the vertical upward direction (opposing the Earth's gravity).

Since the Stokes drift velocity is in the wave propagation direction, and is in the vertical direction, the Coriolis–Stokes forcing is perpendicular to the wave propagation direction (i.e. in the direction parallel to the wave crests). In deep water the Stokes drift velocity is with the wave's phase velocity, the wavenumber, the wave amplitude and the vertical coordinate (positive in the upward direction opposing the gravitational acceleration).

Craik–Leibovich vortex force

In fluid dynamics, the Craik–Leibovich (CL) vortex force describes a forcing of the mean flow through wave–current interaction, specifically between the Stokes drift velocity and the mean-flow vorticity. The CL vortex force is used to explain the generation of Langmuir circulations by an instability mechanism. The CL vortex-force mechanism was derived and studied by Sidney Leibovich and Alex D.D. Craik in the 1970s and 80s, in their studies of Langmuir circulations (discovered by Irving Langmuir in the 1930s).

Howell Peregrine

Howell Peregrine (30 December 1938 – 20 March 2007) was a British applied mathematician noted for his contributions to fluid mechanics, especially of free surface flows such as water waves, and coastal engineering.

Index of physics articles (W)

The index of physics articles is split into multiple pages due to its size.

To navigate by individual letter use the table of contents below.

Index of wave articles

This is a list of Wave topics.

List of submarine volcanoes

A list of active and extinct submarine volcanoes and seamounts located under the world's oceans. There are estimated to be 40,000 to 55,000 seamounts in the global oceans. Almost all are not well-mapped and many may not have been identified at all. Most are unnamed and unexplored. This list is therefore confined to seamounts that are notable enough to have been named and/or explored.

Mild-slope equation

In fluid dynamics, the mild-slope equation describes the combined effects of diffraction and refraction for water waves propagating over bathymetry and due to lateral boundaries—like breakwaters and coastlines. It is an approximate model, deriving its name from being originally developed for wave propagation over mild slopes of the sea floor. The mild-slope equation is often used in coastal engineering to compute the wave-field changes near harbours and coasts.

The mild-slope equation models the propagation and transformation of water waves, as they travel through waters of varying depth and interact with lateral boundaries such as cliffs, beaches, seawalls and breakwaters. As a result, it describes the variations in wave amplitude, or equivalently wave height. From the wave amplitude, the amplitude of the flow velocity oscillations underneath the water surface can also be computed. These quantities—wave amplitude and flow-velocity amplitude—may subsequently be used to determine the wave effects on coastal and offshore structures, ships and other floating objects, sediment transport and resulting geomorphology changes of the sea bed and coastline, mean flow fields and mass transfer of dissolved and floating materials. Most often, the mild-slope equation is solved by computer using methods from numerical analysis.

A first form of the mild-slope equation was developed by Eckart in 1952, and an improved version—the mild-slope equation in its classical formulation—has been derived independently by Juri Berkhoff in 1972. Thereafter, many modified and extended forms have been proposed, to include the effects of, for instance: wave–current interaction, wave nonlinearity, steeper sea-bed slopes, bed friction and wave breaking. Also parabolic approximations to the mild-slope equation are often used, in order to reduce the computational cost.

In case of a constant depth, the mild-slope equation reduces to the Helmholtz equation for wave diffraction.

Oceanic plateau

An oceanic or submarine plateau is a large, relatively flat elevation that is higher than the surrounding relief with one or more relatively steep sides.There are 184 oceanic plateaus covering an area of 18,486,600 km2 (7,137,700 sq mi), or about 5.11% of the oceans. The South Pacific region around Australia and New Zealand contains the greatest number of oceanic plateaus (see map).

Oceanic plateaus produced by large igneous provinces are often associated with hotspots, mantle plumes, and volcanic islands — such as Iceland, Hawaii, Cape Verde, and Kerguelen. The three largest plateaus, the Caribbean, Ontong Java, and Mid-Pacific Mountains, are located on thermal swells. Other oceanic plateaus, however, are made of rifted continental crust, for example Falkland Plateau, Lord Howe Rise, and parts of Kerguelen, Seychelles, and Arctic ridges.

Plateaus formed by large igneous provinces were formed by the equivalent of continental flood basalts such as the Deccan Traps in India and the Snake River Plain in the United States.

In contrast to continental flood basalts, most igneous oceanic plateaus erupt through young and thin (6–7 km (3.7–4.3 mi)) mafic or ultra-mafic crust and are therefore uncontaminated by felsic crust and representative for their mantle sources.

These plateaus often rise 2–3 km (1.2–1.9 mi) above the surrounding ocean floor and are more buoyant than oceanic crust. They therefore tend to withstand subduction, more-so when thick and when reaching subduction zones shortly after their formations. As a consequence, they tend to "dock" to continental margins and be preserved as accreted terranes. Such terranes are often better preserved than the exposed parts of continental flood basalts and are therefore a better record of large-scale volcanic eruptions throughout Earth's history. This "docking" also means that oceanic plateaus are important contributors to the growth of continental crust. Their formations often had a dramatic impact on global climate, such as the most recent plateaus formed, the three, large, Cretaceous oceanic plateaus in the Pacific and Indian Ocean: Ontong Java, Kerguelen, and Caribbean.

Outline of oceanography

The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to Oceanography.

Physical oceanography

Physical oceanography is the study of physical conditions and physical processes within the ocean, especially the motions and physical properties of ocean waters.

Physical oceanography is one of several sub-domains into which oceanography is divided. Others include biological, chemical and geological oceanography.

Physical oceanography may be subdivided into descriptive and dynamical physical oceanography.Descriptive physical oceanography seeks to research the ocean through observations and complex numerical models, which describe the fluid motions as precisely as possible.

Dynamical physical oceanography focuses primarily upon the processes that govern the motion of fluids with emphasis upon theoretical research and numerical models. These are part of the large field of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) that is shared together with meteorology. GFD is a sub field of Fluid dynamics describing flows occurring on spatial and temporal scales that are greatly influenced by the Coriolis force.

Radiation stress

In fluid dynamics, the radiation stress is the depth-integrated – and thereafter phase-averaged – excess momentum flux caused by the presence of the surface gravity waves, which is exerted on the mean flow. The radiation stresses behave as a second-order tensor.

The radiation stress tensor describes the additional forcing due to the presence of the waves, which changes the mean depth-integrated horizontal momentum in the fluid layer. As a result, varying radiation stresses induce changes in the mean surface elevation (wave setup) and the mean flow (wave-induced currents).

For the mean energy density in the oscillatory part of the fluid motion, the radiation stress tensor is important for its dynamics, in case of an inhomogeneous mean-flow field.

The radiation stress tensor, as well as several of its implications on the physics of surface gravity waves and mean flows, were formulated in a series of papers by Longuet-Higgins and Stewart in 1960–1964.

Radiation stress derives its name from the analogous effect of radiation pressure for electromagnetic radiation.

Rogue wave

Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, episodic waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are unusually large, unexpected and suddenly appearing surface waves that can be extremely dangerous, even to large ships such as ocean liners.Rogue waves present considerable danger for several reasons: they are rare, unpredictable, may appear suddenly or without warning, and can impact with tremendous force. A 12-metre (39 ft) wave in the usual "linear" wave model would have a breaking pressure of 6 metric tons per square metre [t/m2] (59 kPa; 8.5 psi). Although modern ships are designed to tolerate a breaking wave of 15 t/m2 (150 kPa; 21 psi), a rogue wave can dwarf both of these figures with a breaking pressure of 100 t/m2 (0.98 MPa; 140 psi).In oceanography, rogue waves are more precisely defined as waves whose height is more than twice the significant wave height (Hs or SWH), which is itself defined as the mean of the largest third of waves in a wave record. Therefore, rogue waves are not necessarily the biggest waves found on the water; they are, rather, unusually large waves for a given sea state. Rogue waves seem not to have a single distinct cause, but occur where physical factors such as high winds and strong currents cause waves to merge to create a single exceptionally large wave.Rogue waves can occur in media other than water. They appear to be ubiquitous in nature and have also been reported in liquid helium, in nonlinear optics and in microwave cavities. Recent research has focused on optical rogue waves which facilitate the study of the phenomenon in the laboratory. A 2015 paper studied the wave behavior around a rogue wave, including optical, and the Draupner wave, and concluded that "rogue events do not necessarily appear without a warning, but are often preceded by a short phase of relative order". A 2012 study confirmed the existence of oceanic rogue holes, the inverse of rogue waves, where the depth of the hole can reach more than twice the significant wave height.

Undersea mountain range

Undersea mountain ranges are mountain ranges that are mostly or entirely underwater, and specifically under the surface of an ocean. If originated from current tectonic forces, they are often referred to as a mid-ocean ridge. In contrast, if formed by past above-water volcanism, they are known as a seamount chain. The largest and best known undersea mountain range is a mid-ocean ridge, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It has been observed that, "similar to those on land, the undersea mountain ranges are the loci of frequent volcanic and earthquake activity".

Wave base

The wave base, in physical oceanography, is the maximum depth at which a water wave's passage causes significant water motion. For water depths deeper than the wave base, bottom sediments and the seafloor are no longer stirred by the wave motion above.

Wave shoaling

In fluid dynamics, wave shoaling is the effect by which surface waves entering shallower water change in wave height. It is caused by the fact that the group velocity, which is also the wave-energy transport velocity, changes with water depth. Under stationary conditions, a decrease in transport speed must be compensated by an increase in energy density in order to maintain a constant energy flux. Shoaling waves will also exhibit a reduction in wavelength while the frequency remains constant.

In shallow water and parallel depth contours, non-breaking waves will increase in wave height as the wave packet enters shallower water. This is particularly evident for tsunamis as they wax in height when approaching a coastline, with devastating results.

Ocean zones
Sea level


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