4.1  Wave Motion
Objectives:
 Be able to quantify the period, frequency, speed, wavelength and height of a wave.
 Understand that wave motion transfers energy without transferring matter.
 Understand that wave involve a circulating motion that extends below the surface.
 Understand the effect that current has on waves.
 Know the effect the waves has on a moving boat.
Waves are a defining characteristic of the sea. They are regular and repetitive motion of the water at the surface. There are 5 main types of waves found on the ocean:
 ripples (or capillary waves)
 wind driven waves
 swell
 tsunamis
 tides
The generic wave form found in physics is useful for visualising the features and variables of any wave. It is important to be conversant with the terms: period, frequency, wavelength, wave speed and wave height. The period is the time interval between successive crests and can range from 1/100th of a second to just over a day. Wave period off South Shore can easily be measured by timing the period off 10 successive waves and dividing the answer by 10.
However, only the smallest ripples on a calm sea look like the sinusoidal wave shown above. Surface tension and gravity affect its shape and the wave becomes more angular and steeper as the driving force (wind) increases. The actual motion of the water molecules is not straight up and down as the slinky spring model would suggest, but rather they move in circles, slowly progressing in the direction of the wave. This circular motion affects the water below it and starts more moving in circles deeper underwater. The overall wave motion can continue underwater for \(5\) circles of decreasing magnitude  to a depth of approximately \(\frac{1}{2} \times wavelength\).
If the wave height gets too high, the steepness of the front of the wave can exceed \(120^{\circ}\)  when the height exceeds \(\frac{1}{7} \lambda\)  and the top of the wave collapses, and/or gets blown off by the wind. If small scale (usually \(12  15 \,\text{kts}\) of wind), these are called "white caps". If larger, they go by the rather romantic "white horses".
The speed of a water wave depends on the wavelength. The longer the wavelength, the faster the wave. The equation that relates these variables is:
\[v=\sqrt{\frac{g \lambda}{2 \pi}}\]
which simplifies to:
\[v=1.25\sqrt{\lambda}\]
In knots the approximate formula is easiest if related to the period, \(T\):
\[v=1.5 \times T\]
If the wave height gets too high, the steepness of the front of the wave can exceed \(120^{\circ}\)  when the height exceeds \(\frac{1}{7} \lambda\)  and the top of the wave collapses, and/or gets blown off by the wind. If small scale (usually \(12  15 \,\text{kts}\) of wind), these are called "white caps". If larger, they go by the rather romantic "white horses".
The speed of a water wave depends on the wavelength. The longer the wavelength, the faster the wave. The equation that relates these variables is:
\[v=\sqrt{\frac{g \lambda}{2 \pi}}\]
which simplifies to:
\[v=1.25\sqrt{\lambda}\]
In knots the approximate formula is easiest if related to the period, \(T\):
\[v=1.5 \times T\]


Diffraction
All waves in physics diffract (spread out) as they pass through a gap. This is very common when sea waves meet islands, gaps in a reef, harbour entrances, and headlands. As the gap size decreases the curvature of the wave increases. When the gap size is about the same as the wavelength, the resulting curvature is essentially circular. There are some interesting consequences of diffraction. Curved beaches like Horseshoe Bay are formed. Swell diffracting around a headland can cause the swell to be striking an anchored boat on the beam, causing it to roll. Scanning over Bermuda on Google Earth can usually show up many examples of diffraction  the best are usually around the entrance to Castle Harbour  see photo.
All waves in physics diffract (spread out) as they pass through a gap. This is very common when sea waves meet islands, gaps in a reef, harbour entrances, and headlands. As the gap size decreases the curvature of the wave increases. When the gap size is about the same as the wavelength, the resulting curvature is essentially circular. There are some interesting consequences of diffraction. Curved beaches like Horseshoe Bay are formed. Swell diffracting around a headland can cause the swell to be striking an anchored boat on the beam, causing it to roll. Scanning over Bermuda on Google Earth can usually show up many examples of diffraction  the best are usually around the entrance to Castle Harbour  see photo.
Interference
Interference occurs when two waves meet. The two crests combine to form a much larger wave. After this, the two waves continue on their respective waves as if nothing had ever happened. On the ocean, this is commonly seen when a swell from a distant storm is overlaid with locally produced wind driven waves. The waves are superimposed over the swell  occasionally leading to some really big waves. If the swell and the waves are moving in different directions, especially if not parallel, but at an angle, then we get what sailors call a confused sea.
The superposition of two waves can lead to Rogue Waves, which were mythical for a long time  mainly as anyone who came across one rarely lived to tell the tale  but have since been recorded. There was a particularly spectacular example called the Draupner Wave that was recorded by the Draupner Oil Platform in the North Sea during a storm in 1995. There was one wave that was almost twice the height of the other waves.
Interference occurs when two waves meet. The two crests combine to form a much larger wave. After this, the two waves continue on their respective waves as if nothing had ever happened. On the ocean, this is commonly seen when a swell from a distant storm is overlaid with locally produced wind driven waves. The waves are superimposed over the swell  occasionally leading to some really big waves. If the swell and the waves are moving in different directions, especially if not parallel, but at an angle, then we get what sailors call a confused sea.
The superposition of two waves can lead to Rogue Waves, which were mythical for a long time  mainly as anyone who came across one rarely lived to tell the tale  but have since been recorded. There was a particularly spectacular example called the Draupner Wave that was recorded by the Draupner Oil Platform in the North Sea during a storm in 1995. There was one wave that was almost twice the height of the other waves.

