Wave propagation over complex bathymetry
Ray, Timothy Allen
Herbers, Thomas H.C.
Thronton, Edward B.
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Swell propagates across thousands of kilometers of ocean in almost unchanged parallel wave fronts. Within the nearshore region however, refraction causes wave fronts to turn toward shallow depths transforming the wave field. The Nearshore Canyon Experiment (NCEX) Pilot, conducted from October 10 to October 17, 2002, observed wave transformation across the Scripps and La Jolla canyon system near San Diego, CA. Four Datawell Directional Waverider Buoys, three Nortek Vector PUV recorders, and two pressure sensors were deployed in depths ranging from 10 to 300 m. Observed energy density spectra and mean propagation directions were examined for three case studies representative of the range of observed swell conditions. Observations were compared to predictions of a back-refraction model provided by Dr. William O'Reilly. Observations indicate that refraction causes the waves to propagate along the deep axes of the Scripps and La Jolla canyons. At the shallow canyon heads, the convergence and divergence of ray trajectories cause extreme (2-3 orders of magnitude!) spatial variations in wave energy. Considering the complexity of the canyon environment, predictions of wave transformation agree surprisingly well with observations.
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