Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 447–457 | Cite as

Waves, circulation and vertical dependence

Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on the 4th International Workshop on Modelling the Ocean in Yokohama, Japan 21–24 May 2012


Longuet-Higgins and Stewart (J Fluid Mech 13:481–504, 1962; Deep-Sea Res 11:529–562, 1964) and later Phillips (1977) introduced the problem of waves incident on a beach, from deep to shallow water. From the wave energy equation and the vertically integrated continuity equation, they inferred velocities to be Stokes drift plus a return current so that the vertical integral of the combined velocities was nil. As a consequence, it can be shown that velocities of the order of Stokes drift rendered the advective term in the momentum equation negligible resulting in a simple balance between the horizontal gradients of the vertically integrated elevation and wave radiation stress terms; the latter was first derived by Longuet-Higgins and Stewart. Mellor (J Phys Oceanogr 33:1978–1989, 2003a), noting that vertically integrated continuity and momentum equations were not able to deal with three-dimensional numerical or analytical ocean models, derived a vertically dependent theory of wave–circulation interaction. It has since been partially revised and the revisions are reviewed here. The theory is comprised of the conventional, three-dimensional, continuity and momentum equations plus a vertically distributed, wave radiation stress term. When applied to the problem of waves incident on a beach with essentially zero turbulence momentum mixing, velocities are very large and the simple balance between elevation and radiation stress gradients no longer prevails. However, when turbulence mixing is reinstated, the vertically dependent radiation stresses produce vertical velocity gradients which then produce turbulent mixing; as a consequence, velocities are reduced, but are still larger by an order of magnitude compared to Stokes drift. Nevertheless, the velocity reduction is sufficient so that elevation set-down obtained from a balance between elevation gradient and radiation stress gradients is nearly coincident with that obtained by the aforementioned papers. This paper includes four appendices. The first appendix demonstrates the numerical process by which Stokes drift is excluded from the turbulence stress parameterization in the momentum equation. A second appendix determines a bottom slope criterion for the application of linear wave relations to the derivation of the wave radiation stress. The third appendix explores the possibility of generalizing results by non-dimensionalization. The final appendix applies the basic theory to a problem introduced by Bennis and Ardhuin (J Phys Oceanogr 41:2008–2012, 2011).


Surface waves Ocean circulation Ocean modeling Wave radiation stress 



Comments by reviewers were helpful in revising the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Sayre Hall, Forrestal CampusPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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