Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Kinematics and depth-integrated terms in surf zone waves from laboratory measurement

a1 School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester M60 1QD, UK
a2 Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough LU11 3TU, UK

Article author query
stansby pk   [Google Scholar] 
feng t   [Google Scholar] 


Kinematics of nominally periodic surf zone waves have been measured in the laboratory using LDA (laser Doppler anemometry), above trough level as well as below, for weakly plunging breakers transforming into bores in shallower water. The aim was to determine, through phase- or ensemble-averaging, periodic flow structures in a two-dimensional vertical plane, from large-scale down to small-scale vortical structures. Coherent multiple vortical structures were evident at the initiation of breaking, becoming elongated along the surface during bore propagation. The initial region is likely to become more extensive as waves become more strongly plunging and could explain the difference in turbulence characteristics between plunging and spilling breakers observed elsewhere. Comparison of vorticity magnitudes with hydraulic-jump measurements showed some similarities during the initial stages of breaking, but these quickly grew less as breaking progressed into shallower water. Period-averaged kinematics and vorticity were also obtained showing shoreward mass transport above trough level and undertow below, with a thick layer of vorticity at trough level and a thin layer of vorticity of opposite rotation at the bed. There were also concentrated regions of mean vorticity near the end of the plunging region. Residual turbulence of relatively high frequency was presented as Reynolds stresses, showing marked anisotrophy. Dynamic pressure (pressure minus its hydrostatic component) was determined from the kinematics. The magnitudes of different effects were evaluated through the depth-integrated Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes (RANS) equations, which may be reduced to nine terms (the standard inviscid terms of the shallow-water equations conserving mass and momentum with hydrostatic pressure, and six additional terms), assuming that the complex, often aerated, free surface is treated as a simple interface. All terms were evaluated, assuming that a space/time transformation was justified with a slowly varying phase speed, and the net balance was always small in relation to the maxima of the larger terms. Terms due to dynamic pressure and vertical dispersion (due to the vertical variation of velocity) were as significant as the three terms in the inviscid shallow-water equations; terms involving residual turbulence were insignificant. The r.m.s. (root mean square) variation of each along the slope is highly irregular, with the inertia term due to (Eulerian) acceleration always greatest. This is consistent with complex, though repetitive, coherent structures. Modelling the flow with the shallow-water equations, using the surface elevation variation at the break point as input, nevertheless gave a good prediction of the wave height variation up the slope.

(Published Online April 1 2005)
(Received April 10 2003)
(Revised December 14 2004)