Friday, September 27, 2013

The Science of Ocean Waves

The Science of Ocean Waves: Ripples, Tsunamis, and Stormy Seas by J. B. Zirker  
Johns Hopkins University Press: October 2013
Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781421410784
"Powerful ocean waves fascinate the public, and they have made a lot of news lately." With that indisputable observation, scientist J. B. Zirker takes off on a whirlwind tour of the world of waves—from the "ordinary" waves that constantly churn the sea to the rogues or freaks that can rise up seemingly from nowhere to heights of 20 meters or more... and everything in between.
Addressing questions most ocean visitors have had and offering new ones for our consideration, The Science of Ocean Waves explains in accessible language how waves are formed, how they move, how they become huge and destructive, and how they're being studied now for clues that will help us plan for the future.
Devoting chapters to wind, tides, currents, breakers, tsunamis, forecasting, renewable energy, and El Niño—as well as discussing the gentler properties of ocean waves which inspire us and offer opportunities for relaxation and recreation—Zirker explores the physical factors that create waves.
Drawing on some of the recent storms that have devastated entire regions—such as Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami launched by the 2004 Sumatran earthquake, and the great tsunami that crushed the shore of Japan in 2011—Zirker explains the forces that cause these monster waves and reveals the toll they take on human lives.
Enhanced by dozens of illustrations and a comprehensive glossary, The Science of Ocean Waves will fascinate anyone curious about the science behind the headlines.
My Thoughts:

The Science of Ocean Waves: Ripples, Tsunamis, and Stormy Seas by J. B. Zirker is a fascinating look at ocean waves and the science behind the discoveries of those who have studied ocean waves. Rather than being presented in a complicated manner, this very informative book is also written and illustrated in a straightforward manner for the interested lay person who doesn't have a strong scientific background. Zirker's explanation of the science behind ocean waves is very accessible.

Chapters in the book include:
1 A Walk along the Beach
2 What Exactly Is a Wave?
3 How the Wind Generates Ocean Waves
4 A Touch of Reality: How Big Waves Behave
5 Observations at Sea: The Postwar Boom
6 Forecasting and Monitoring Storm Waves
7 Breaking Waves
8 Freaks and Rogues
9 Tsunamis
10 Internal Waves and El Niño
11 The Tides
12 The Currents
13 Ship Waves
14 Renewable Energy from Waves and Tides
15 The Future
Plus there are over 45 illustrations, a comprehensive glossary, and an index.

The regular moving pattern of pattern of humps and hollows of ocean waves is called a swell. The  distance between the crest and the trough is called the “height” of the wave. It is interesting to note (or remember) that the water in a wave doesn’t actually travel with the wave toward the shore; it just bobs up and down, practically in place. It is an oscillating motion that weakens the deeper you go under the surface of the ocean, which is why submarines dive to escape storms.

Obviously scientists have been interested in ocean waves for a long time. Much of the research on waves has also been applicable to other areas of science. Zirker does a great job explaining  and illustrating that there are several phenomena explained that we can view in ocean waves but are common to all types of waves: reflection, refraction, diffraction and interference. These properties also apply to sound waves, light waves, and seismic waves.

While Wilhelm Eduard Weber (1804–91) and his older brother Ernst Heinrich Weber were the first scientists to investigate water waves experimentally in a lab, the roll call of scientists mentioned in The Science of Ocean Waves is impressive. It includes (but is not limited to):  the Weber brothers, Galileo, Newton, D'Alembert, Euler, Lagrange, Cauchy, Airy, Kelvin, Helmholz, Jeffreys, Fourier, Phillips, Miles, Snyder, Mitsuyasu, Plate, Plant, Wright, Janssen, Hristov, Friehe, Miller, Lighthill, Reutov, Farrell, Ioannou, Lin, Munk, Russell, Stokes, Gerstner, Korteweg, de Vries, Davisson, Germer, Schrodinger, Zakharov, Benjamin, Feir, Hasselmann, Monk, Cox, Darbyshire, Moskowitz, Pierson, Tsanis, Brisete, Holthuijsen, Herbers, Banner, Phillips, Duncan, Melville, Matusov, Topex.

More random information to entice you to read the book:

JONSWAP, the Joint North Sea Wave Project developed a wave spectrum based on field experiments and measurements of waves.

In the wake of recent hurricanes, Katrina, and Tsunamis (2004 Indian Ocean and Miyako) other models developed include SWAN SLOSH, represents storm surge and wave hazard that impact coastal waters. Slosh is for storm surge and SWAN is for wave height.

Today there are also satellites that monitor ocean waves: go to the NOAA site for more information:
Freak waves and rogue waves are always interesting and have been proven to exist. It was reported that a wave that hit the ship Ramapo "was a crest to-trough height of 34m, or 112 feet! It was the largest wave ever reported." When scientists mapped the locations of the 245 accidents blamed on rogue waves, they noticed that they "were concentrated in four areas of heavy shipping: the U.S. east Coast, the north Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the coast of China. This result led to the suggestion that ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream and Kirushiro Current could be generating rogue waves." 

Another tantalizing tidbit of information is that oceanographers are making progress in revealing the mechanisms involved in el niño events. "Theoretical studies over the past 30 years suggest a crucial role for two unusual types of ocean waves: rossby waves and Kelvin waves. These waves were predicted to have wavelengths of hundreds or thousands of kilometers."

The Science of Ocean Waves: Ripples, Tsunamis, and Stormy Seas is due to be released in October of 2013. (I have conflicting publishing dates of October 2 or 31.)
Fascinating book!

Very Highly Recommended for those interested in more information on ocean waves.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press viaEdelweiss for review purposes.

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