Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shoreline Waves

As swells travel toward the shoreline, the ocean floor gradually rises or there might be a disruptive change in ocean floor topography like a reef or rock ledge. As the depth of the water gets shallower, waves become higher and steeper.

Approaching the shore, the orbital motion of water is disrupted to the point where water particles no longer return to their original position. The orbital motion is shown by the red dots and blue traces above.

The Banzai Pipeline, Hāna, Hawaii

Ultimately a wave breaks when its crest overturns itself.

The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.
Virginia Woolf, The Waves