In physical oceanography, undertow is the under-current that is moving offshore when waves are approaching the shore. Undertow is a natural and universal feature for almost any large body of water: it is a return flow compensating for the onshore-directed average transport of water by the waves in the zone above the wave troughs. The undertow's flow velocities are generally strongest in the surf zone, where the water is shallow and the waves are high due to shoaling.
Physical oceanography is the study of physical conditions and physical processes within the ocean, especially the motions and physical properties of ocean waters.
In fluid dynamics, wind waves, or wind-generated waves, are water surface waves that occur on the free surface of the oceans and other bodies. They result from the wind blowing over an area of fluid surface. Waves in the oceans can travel thousands of miles before reaching land. Wind waves on Earth range in size from small ripples, to waves over 100 ft (30 m) high.
In continuum mechanics the macroscopic velocity, also flow velocity in fluid dynamics or drift velocity in electromagnetism, is a vector field used to mathematically describe the motion of a continuum. The length of the flow velocity vector is the flow speed and is a scalar. It is also called velocity field; when evaluated along a line, it is called a velocity profile.
In popular usage, the word "undertow" is often misapplied to rip currents.An undertow occurs everywhere underneath shore-approaching waves, whereas rip currents are localized narrow offshore currents occurring at certain locations along the coast. Unlike undertow, rip currents are strong at the surface.
A rip current, often simply called a rip, is a specific kind of water current which can occur near beaches with breaking waves. A rip is a strong, localized, and narrow current of water which moves directly away from the shore, cutting through the lines of breaking waves like a river running out to sea, and is strongest near the surface of the water.
An "undertow" is a steady, offshore-directed compensation flow, which occurs below waves near the shore. Physically, nearshore, the wave-induced mass flux between wave crest and trough is onshore directed. This mass transport is localized in the upper part of the water column, i.e. above the wave troughs. To compensate for the amount of water being transported towards the shore, a second-order (i.e. proportional to the wave height squared), offshore-directed mean current takes place in the lower section of the water column. This flow – the undertow – affects the nearshore waves everywhere, unlike rip currents localized at certain positions along the shore.
In physics and engineering, mass flux is the rate of mass flow per unit area, perfectly overlapping with the momentum density, the momentum per unit volume. The common symbols are j, J, q, Q, φ, or Φ, sometimes with subscript m to indicate mass is the flowing quantity. Its SI units are kg s−1 m−2. Mass flux can also refer to an alternate form of flux in Fick's law that includes the molecular mass, or in Darcy's law that includes the mass density.
A water column is a conceptual column of water from the surface of a sea, river or lake to the bottom sediment. Descriptively, the deep sea water column is divided into five parts—pelagic zones —from the surface to below the floor, as follows: epipelagic, from the surface to 200 meters below the surface; mesopelagic, from 200 to 1000 meters below the surface; bathypelagic, from 1000 to 4000 meters below the surface; abyssopelagic, from 4000 meters below the surface to the level sea floor; hadopelagic, depressions and crevices below the level sea floor.
In fluid dynamics, the wave height of a surface wave is the difference between the elevations of a crest and a neighbouring trough. Wave height is a term used by mariners, as well as in coastal, ocean and naval engineering.
The term undertow is used in scientific coastal oceanography papers.The distribution of flow velocities in the undertow over the water column is important as it strongly influences the on- or offshore transport of sediment. Outside the surf zone there is a near-bed onshore-directed sediment transport induced by Stokes drift and skewed-asymmetric wave transport. In the surf zone, strong undertow generates a near-bed offshore sediment transport. These antagonistic flows may lead to sand bar formation where the flows converge near the wave breaking point, or in the wave breaking zone.
Sediment transport is the movement of solid particles (sediment), typically due to a combination of gravity acting on the sediment, and/or the movement of the fluid in which the sediment is entrained. Sediment transport occurs in natural systems where the particles are clastic rocks, mud, or clay; the fluid is air, water, or ice; and the force of gravity acts to move the particles along the sloping surface on which they are resting. Sediment transport due to fluid motion occurs in rivers, oceans, lakes, seas, and other bodies of water due to currents and tides. Transport is also caused by glaciers as they flow, and on terrestrial surfaces under the influence of wind. Sediment transport due only to gravity can occur on sloping surfaces in general, including hillslopes, scarps, cliffs, and the continental shelf—continental slope boundary.
For a pure wave motion in fluid dynamics, the Stokes drift velocity is the average velocity when following a specific fluid parcel as it travels with the fluid flow. For instance, a particle floating at the free surface of water waves, experiences a net Stokes drift velocity in the direction of wave propagation.
In fluid dynamics, a breaking wave is a wave whose amplitude reaches a critical level at which some process can suddenly start to occur that causes large amounts of wave energy to be transformed into turbulent kinetic energy. At this point, simple physical models that describe wave dynamics often become invalid, particularly those that assume linear behaviour.
An exact relation for the mass flux of a nonlinear periodic wave on an inviscid fluid layer was established by Levi-Civita in 1924. of the wave is related to the wave's kinetic energy density (integrated over depth and thereafter averaged over wavelength) and phase speed through:In a frame of reference according to Stokes' first definition of wave celerity, the mass flux
In mathematics, a periodic function is a function that repeats its values in regular intervals or periods. The most important examples are the trigonometric functions, which repeat over intervals of 2π radians. Periodic functions are used throughout science to describe oscillations, waves, and other phenomena that exhibit periodicity. Any function that is not periodic is called aperiodic.
Tullio Levi-Civita, was an Italian mathematician, most famous for his work on absolute differential calculus and its applications to the theory of relativity, but who also made significant contributions in other areas. He was a pupil of Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro, the inventor of tensor calculus. His work included foundational papers in both pure and applied mathematics, celestial mechanics, analytic mechanics and hydrodynamics.
In physics, a frame of reference consists of an abstract coordinate system and the set of physical reference points that uniquely fix the coordinate system and standardize measurements.
Similarly, Longuet Higgins showed in 1975 that – for the common situation of zero mass flux towards the shore (i.e. Stokes' second definition of wave celerity) – normal-incident periodic waves produce a depth- and time-averaged undertow velocity:
with the mean water depth and the fluid density. The positive flow direction of is in the wave propagation direction.
For small-amplitude waves, there is equipartition of kinetic () and potential energy ():
with the total energy density of the wave, integrated over depth and averaged over horizontal space. Since in general the potential energy is much easier to measure than the kinetic energy, the wave energy is approximately (with the wave height). So
For irregular waves the required wave height is the root-mean-square wave height with the standard deviation of the free-surface elevation. The potential energy is and
The distribution of the undertow velocity over the water depth is a topic of ongoing research.
In contrast to undertow, rip currents are responsible for the great majority of drownings close to beaches. When a swimmer enters a rip current, it starts to carry them offshore. The swimmer can exit the rip current by swimming at right angles to the flow, parallel to the shore, or by simply treading water or floating. However, drowning may occur when swimmers exhaust themselves by trying unsuccessfully to swim directly against the flow.
On the United States Lifesaving Association website it is noted that some uses of the word "undertow" are incorrect:
A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water–-they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.
In some regions rip currents are referred to by other, incorrect terms such as 'rip tides' and 'undertow'. We encourage exclusive use of the correct term – rip currents. Use of other terms may confuse people and negatively impact public education efforts.
Hubble–Lemaître Law, also known as Hubble's Law, is the observation in physical cosmology that:
In fluid dynamics, gravity waves are waves generated in a fluid medium or at the interface between two media when the force of gravity or buoyancy tries to restore equilibrium. An example of such an interface is that between the atmosphere and the ocean, which gives rise to wind waves.
Deposition is the geological process in which sediments, soil and rocks are added to a landform or land mass. Wind, ice, water, and gravity transport previously weathered surface material, which, at the loss of enough kinetic energy in the fluid, is deposited, building up layers of sediment.
A continuity equation in physics is an equation that describes the transport of some quantity. It is particularly simple and powerful when applied to a conserved quantity, but it can be generalized to apply to any extensive quantity. Since mass, energy, momentum, electric charge and other natural quantities are conserved under their respective appropriate conditions, a variety of physical phenomena may be described using continuity equations.
A capillary wave is a wave traveling along the phase boundary of a fluid, whose dynamics and phase velocity are dominated by the effects of surface tension.
Wave power is the capture of energy of wind waves to do useful work – for example, electricity generation, water desalination, or pumping water. A machine that exploits wave power is a wave energy converter (WEC).
Internal waves are gravity waves that oscillate within a fluid medium, rather than on its surface. To exist, the fluid must be stratified: the density must change with depth/height due to changes, for example, in temperature and/or salinity. If the density changes over a small vertical distance, the waves propagate horizontally like surface waves, but do so at slower speeds as determined by the density difference of the fluid below and above the interface. If the density changes continuously, the waves can propagate vertically as well as horizontally through the fluid.
Hydraulic head or piezometric head is a specific measurement of liquid pressure above a vertical datum.
The Weber number (We) is a dimensionless number in fluid mechanics that is often useful in analysing fluid flows where there is an interface between two different fluids, especially for multiphase flows with strongly curved surfaces. It is named after Moritz Weber (1871–1951). It can be thought of as a measure of the relative importance of the fluid's inertia compared to its surface tension. The quantity is useful in analyzing thin film flows and the formation of droplets and bubbles.
Swash, or forewash in geography, is a turbulent layer of water that washes up on the beach after an incoming wave has broken. The swash action can move beach materials up and down the beach, which results in the cross-shore sediment exchange. The time-scale of swash motion varies from seconds to minutes depending on the type of beach. Greater swash generally occurs on flatter beaches. The swash motion plays the primary role in the formation of morphological features and their changes in the swash zone. The swash action also plays an important role as one of the instantaneous processes in wider coastal morphodynamics.
Ekman transport, part of Ekman motion theory first investigated in 1902 by Vagn Walfrid Ekman, refers to the wind-driven net transport of the surface layer of a fluid that, due to the Coriolis effect, occurs at 90° to the direction of the surface wind. This phenomenon was first noted by Fridtjof Nansen, who recorded that ice transport appeared to occur at an angle to the wind direction during his Arctic expedition during the 1890s. The direction of transport is dependent on the hemisphere: in the northern hemisphere, transport occurs at 90° clockwise from wind direction, while in the southern hemisphere it occurs at a 90° counterclockwise.
HydroGeoSphere (HGS) is a 3D control-volume finite element groundwater model, and is based on a rigorous conceptualization of the hydrologic system consisting of surface and subsurface flow regimes. The model is designed to take into account all key components of the hydrologic cycle. For each time step, the model solves surface and subsurface flow, solute and energy transport equations simultaneously, and provides a complete water and solute balance.
In physical oceanography, Langmuir circulation consists of a series of shallow, slow, counter-rotating vortices at the ocean's surface aligned with the wind. These circulations are developed when wind blows steadily over the sea surface. Irving Langmuir discovered this phenomenon after observing windrows of seaweed in the Sargasso Sea in 1927. Langmuir circulations circulate within the mixed layer; however, it is not yet so clear how strongly they can cause mixing at the base of the mixed layer.
In fluid dynamics, Airy wave theory gives a linearised description of the propagation of gravity waves on the surface of a homogeneous fluid layer. The theory assumes that the fluid layer has a uniform mean depth, and that the fluid flow is inviscid, incompressible and irrotational. This theory was first published, in correct form, by George Biddell Airy in the 19th century.
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.
In fluid dynamics the Morison equation is a semi-empirical equation for the inline force on a body in oscillatory flow. It is sometimes called the MOJS equation after all four authors—Morison, O'Brien, Johnson and Schaaf—of the 1950 paper in which the equation was introduced. The Morison equation is used to estimate the wave loads in the design of oil platforms and other offshore structures.
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.
In fluid dynamics, wave setup is the increase in mean water level due to the presence of breaking waves. Similarly, wave setdown is a wave-induced decrease of the mean water level before the waves break. For short, the whole phenomenon is often denoted as wave setup, including both increase and decrease of mean elevation. This setup is primarily present in and near the coastal surf zone. Besides a spatial variation in the (mean) wave setup, also a variation in time may be present – known as surf beat – causing infragravity wave radiation.
Isentropic nozzle flow describes the movement of a gas or fluid through a narrowing opening without an increase or decrease in entropy.