Extreme water velocities: Topographical amplification of wave-induced flow in the surf zone of rocky shores

Denny, M. W., L. P. Miller, M. D. Stokes, L. J. H. Hunt, B. S. T. Helmuth

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(1), 2003, 1-8 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.1.0001

ABSTRACT: Water velocities as high as 25 m s-1 have been recorded in the surf zone of wave-swept rocky shores—velocities more than twice the phase speed of the breaking waves with which they are associated. How can water travel twice as fast as the waveform that initially induces its velocity? We explore the possibility that the interaction of a wave with the local topography of the shore can greatly amplify the water velocities imposed on intertidal plants and animals. Experiments in a laboratory wave tank show that interactions between bores refracted by a prowlike beach can produce jets in which the velocity is nearly twice the bore’s phase speed. This velocity can be further amplified by a factor of 1.3-1.6 if the jet strikes a vertical wall. This type of topographically induced amplification of water velocity could result in substantial spatial variation in wave-induced hydrodynamic forces and might thereby help to explain the patchwork nature of disturbance that is characteristic of intertidal communities.

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