Small forces make a big difference in beach erosion, according to new article in Physics of Fluids, which may lead to better solutions for sustainable beaches
People standing on a beach often feel the water tugging the sand away from under their feet. This is the undertow, the current that pulls water back into the ocean after a wave breaks on the beach.
Large storms produce strong undertows that can strip beaches of sand. By predicting how undertows interact with shorelines, researchers can build sand dunes and engineer other soft solutions to create more robust and sustainable beaches.
"Formulation of the Undertow Using Linear Wave Theory," a new paper in the journal Physics of Fluids, clears up some of the controversy in undertow modeling, so planners can assess erosion threats faster and more accurately.
The paper's authors are coastal engineer Greg Guannel of the Natural Capital Project, which seeks smarter ways to integrate natural resources into development, and Tuba Ozkan-Haller, an associate professor of coastal engineering at Oregon State University.
Researchers have studied undertow for more than 40 years, and have developed very accurate models of its behavior. The most sophisticated ones are based on Navier-Stokes equations, which describe fluid flow in exquisite detail.
Unfortunately, such precision comes at a price. The mathematics are complex and it takes powerful supercomputers to run them quickly.
"You can't use them to solve day-to-day erosion problems," Guannel said.
For real-world use, researchers need mathematical shortcuts, the engineering equivalent of rounding numbers so they are easier to work with. Researchers turn to linear wave theory, which simplifies things by using idealized forms. Beaches, for example, are wall. Waves are given perfect "S" shapes based on average properties. Instead of modeling everything, researchers make assumptions about some of the weaker forces acting on waves.
"We try to come up with a set of equations that describes flow properties in one step, rather than hundreds of steps, so we can solve problems faster," Guannel said.
Several research teams, each with its own approach, built simplified models based on linear theory. And each came up with a different solution.
This bothered Guannel, who said, "If you start with a single theory, no matter how you approach the problem, you should come up with only one solution, not many."
So Guannel and Ozkan-Haller retraced the work of each team. They found their differences were not due to approach, but to the way they handled weak forces generated by waves. They then developed more consistent ways to describe those forces. The strongest of them was the force exerted by water moving from the top of the wave to the bottom.
"A major advance in our paper was to describe that force correctly," Guannel said.
Another weak force is advection, which occurs as the undertow is sucked into the larger current created by the waves. "In the larger scheme of things, advection of the undertow is weak. But here, it can play an important role," Guannel explained.
"We found that all the differences between researchers were due to the erroneous formulation or the neglect of these weak terms. When we add them back in, everyone who did the math correctly comes up with the same solution," he said.
Instead of debating methodology, researchers can now focus on improving the accuracy of their models. If they can do this, Guannel said, they can build better models to help preserve the shoreline and enable beaches to recover faster after storms.
The article "Formulation of the Undertow Using Linear Wave Theory" is authored by G. Guannel and H.T. Özkan-Haller. It appears in the journal Physics of Fluids on May 13, 2014 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4872160). After that date, it can be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/pof2/26/5/10.1063/1.4872160
ABOUT THE JOURNAL
Physics of Fluids is devoted to the publication of original theoretical, computational, and experimental contributions to the dynamics of gases, liquids, and complex or multiphase fluids. See: http://pof.aip.org
Jason Socrates Bardi | Eurek Alert!
When helium behaves like a black hole
22.03.2017 | University of Vermont
Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars
22.03.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
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...
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...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
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...
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...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences