Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

CU mathematicians show how shallow water may help explain tsunami power

19.09.2012
While wave watching is a favorite pastime of beachgoers, few notice what is happening in the shallowest water. A closer look by two University of Colorado Boulder applied mathematicians has led to the discovery of interacting X- and Y-shaped ocean waves that may help explain why some tsunamis are able to wreak so much havoc.

Professor Mark Ablowitz and doctoral student Douglas Baldwin repeatedly observed such wave interactions in ankle-deep water at both Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and Venice Beach, Calif., in the Pacific Ocean -- interactions that were thought to be very rare but which actually happen every day near low tide. There they saw single, straight waves interacting with each other to form X- and Y-shaped waves as well as more complex wave structures, all predicted by mathematical equations, said Ablowitz.


Understanding the interactions of X- and Y-shaped ocean waves may help explain why some tsunamis are so devastating, say two CU-Boulder mathematicians.

Credit: University of Colorado

When most ocean waves collide, the "interaction height" is the sum of the incoming wave heights, said Baldwin. "But the wave heights that we saw from such interactions were much taller, indicating that they are what we call nonlinear," he said.

Satellite observations of the 2011 tsunami generated by the devastating earthquake that struck Japan indicate there was an X-shaped wave created by the merger of two large waves. "This significantly increased the destructive power of the event," said Ablowitz. "If the interaction had happened at a much greater distance from shore, the devastation could have been even worse as the amplitude could have been even larger. Not every tsunami is strengthened by interacting waves, but when they do intersect there can be a powerful multiplier because of the nonlinearity."

Ablowitz first observed the nonlinear wave action in 2009 while visiting Nuevo Vallarta just north of Puerto Vallarta with his family. He took hundreds of photographs and videos of the peculiar waves over the next several years.

"Unlike most new physics, you can see these interactions without expensive equipment or years of training," said Ablowitz. "A person just needs to go to a flat beach, preferably near a jetty, within a few hours of low tide and know what to look for."

A paper on the subject by Ablowitz and Baldwin was published this month in the journal Physical Review E.

Baldwin, who is studying under Ablowitz, wanted to go the extra mile to verify that the wave interactions observed by his professor were not unique to one beach. In this case he drove more than 1,000 miles to the Los Angeles area "on a whim" to search for the types of waves Ablowitz had observed in Mexico. He hit the jackpot at Venice Beach.

"I don't think there is anything more enjoyable in science than discovering something by chance, predicting something you haven't seen, and then actually seeing what you predicted," said Baldwin.

To see photos and videos of the wave interactions visit http://www.douglasbaldwin.com/nl-waves.html and http://www.markablowitz.com/line-solitons.

Contact:
Mark Ablowitz, 303-492-5502
Mark.Ablowitz@colorado.edu
Douglas Baldwin
Douglas.Baldwin@colorado.edu
Douglas256@gmail.com
Jim Scott, CU media relations, 303-492-3114

Mark Ablowitz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.colorado.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht New study maps space dust in 3-D
23.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>