The spatial and temporal variability of nearshore currents

David Johnson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The nearshore current field, defined here as the residual horizontal flow after averaging over the incident wave period, exhibits variability at a range of time and space scales. Some of the variable currents are low frequency gravity wave motions. However, variable, rotational (in the sense of possessing vertical vorticity) flow can also exist as part of the overall nearshore current field. A field and numerical modelling investigation of these variable rotational currents has been carried out. Drifters, which were developed for surfzone use, enabled measurement of the nearshore current structure; the design and testing of these new instruments is described. Two sets of field measurements, using the new drifters and Eulerian instruments were carried out for conditions with swell perpendicular to a plane beach and in strong longshore currents. In the perpendicular swell conditions, an interesting and well-defined feature of the measured trajectories was the development of transient rip currents. Discrete vortices were also observed. In the longshore current case, trajectories with the longshore current displacement removed had complex meandering paths. Lagrangian data were used to make estimates of length scales and dispersion, both of which provide strong evidence that the current field cannot be due to low frequency gravity waves alone.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2004


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