16.2 Nonlinear Waves We derived the properties of an ocean surface wave assuming waves were infinitely small ka = O (0). If the waves are small ka << 1 but not infinitely small, the wave properties can be expanded in a power series of ka (Stokes, 1847). He calculated the properties of a wave of finite amplitude and found:
The phases of the components for the Fourier series expansion of ζ in (16.14) are such that nonlinear waves have sharpened crests and flattened troughs. The maximum amplitude of the Stokes wave is a_{max} = 0.07 L (ka = 0.44). Such steep waves in deep water are called Stokes waves (See also Lamb, 1945, §250). Knowledge of nonlinear waves came slowly until Hasselmann (1961, 1963a, 1963b, 1966), using the tools of highenergy particle physics, worked out to 6th order the interactions of three or more waves on the sea surface. He, Phillips (1960), and LonguetHiggins and Phillips (1962) showed that n free waves on the sea surface can interact to produce another free wave only if the frequencies and wave numbers of the interacting waves sum to zero:
where we allow waves to travel in any direction, and k _{i} is the vector wave number giving wavelength and direction. (16.15a, b) are general requirements for any interacting waves. The fewest number of waves that meet the conditions of (16.15) are three waves which interact to produce a fourth. The interaction is weak; waves must interact for hundreds of wavelengths and periods to produce a fourth wave with amplitude comparable to the interacting waves. The Stokes wave does not meet the criteria of (16.15) and the wave components are not free waves; the higher harmonics are bound to the primary wave. Wave Momentum
Solitary Waves
The properties of a solitary waves result from an exact balance between dispersion which tends to spread the solitary wave into a train of waves, and nonlinear effects which tend to shorten and steepen the wave. The type of solitary wave in shallow water seen by Russell, has the form:
which propagates at a speed:
You might think that all shallowwater waves are solitons because they are nondispersive, and hence they ought to propagate without change in shape. Unfortunately, this is not true if the waves have finite amplitude. The velocity of the wave depends on depth. If the wave consists of a single hump, then the water at the crest travels faster than water in the trough, and the wave steepens as it moves forward. Eventually, the wave becomes very steep and breaks. At this point it is called a bore. In some river mouths, the incoming tide is so high and the estuary so long and shallow that the tidal wave entering the estuary eventually steepens and breaks producing a bore that runs up the river. This happens in the Amazon in South America, the Severn in Europe, and the Tsientang in China (Pugh, 1987: 249).


Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University Robert H. Stewart, stewart@ocean.tamu.edu All contents copyright © 2005 Robert H. Stewart, All rights reserved Updated on November 15, 2006 