A study of sea surface wave propagation and its energy deformation was carried out using field observations and numerical experiments over a region spanning the midshelf of the South Atlantic Bight (SAB) to the Altamaha River Estuary, GA. Wave heights on the shelf region correlate with the wind observations and directional observations show that most of the wave energy is incident from the easterly direction. Comparing midshelf and inner shelf wave heights during a time when there was no wind and hence no wave development led to an estimation of wave energy dissipation due to bottom friction with corresponding wave dissipation factor of 0.07 for the gently sloping continental shelf of the SAB. After interacting with the shoaling region of the Altamaha River, the wave energy within the estuary becomes periodic in time showing wave energy during flood to high water phase of the tide and very little wave energy during ebb to low water. This periodic modulation inside the estuary is a direct result of enhanced depth and current-induced wave breaking that occurs at the ebb shoaling region surrounding the Altamaha River mouth at longitude 81.23°W. Modelling results with STWAVE showed that depth-induced wave breaking is more important during the low water phase of the tide than current-induced wave breaking during the ebb phase of the tide. During the flood to high water phase of the tide, wave energy propagates into the estuary. Measurements of the significant wave height within the estuary showed a maximum wave height difference of 0.4 m between the slack high water (SHW) and slack low water (SLW). In this shallow environment these wave–current interactions lead to an apparent bottom roughness that is increased from typical hydraulic roughness values, leading to an enhanced bottom friction coefficient.
Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2006
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