Journal of Fluid Mechanics


The inverse water wave problem of bathymetry detection

Vishal Vasana1 c1 and Bernard Deconincka2

a1 Department of Mathematics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

a2 Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA


The inverse water wave problem of bathymetry detection is the problem of deducing the bottom topography of the seabed from measurements of the water wave surface. In this paper, we present a fully nonlinear method to address this problem in the context of the Euler equations for inviscid irrotational fluid flow with no further approximation. Given the water wave height and its first two time derivatives, we demonstrate that the bottom topography may be reconstructed from the numerical solution of a set of two coupled non-local equations. Owing to the presence of growing hyperbolic functions in these equations, their numerical solution is increasingly difficult if the length scales involved are such that the water is sufficiently deep. This reflects the ill-posed nature of the inverse problem. A new method for the solution of the forward problem of determining the water wave surface at any time, given the bathymetry, is also presented.

(Received June 12 2012)

(Revised August 06 2012)

(Accepted October 08 2012)

Key words

  • surface gravity waves;
  • waves/free-surface flows


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