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Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Sitting on the beach on a sunny summer day, we enjoy the steady advance and retreat of the waves. In the water, enthusiastic waders jump and shriek with pleasure when a wave hits them. But where do these waves come from? How are they formed and why do they break on the shore? In Waves, Fredric Raichlen traces the evolution of waves, from their generation in the deep ocean to their effects on the coast. He explains, in a way that is readily understandable to nonscientists, both the science of waves themselves and the technology that can be used to protect us against their more extreme forms, including hurricanes and tsunamis. After offering a basic definition of waves and explaining the mechanics of wind-wave generation, Raichlen describes how waves travel, how they shoal (rise), how they break, and how they transform in other ways. He goes on to describe, among other things, the complicated sun-Earth-moon combinations that create astronomical tides (the high and low tides that occur daily and predictably); the effects of waves on the beach, including rip currents and beach erosion, and on harbors and shipping; and the building of breakwaters to protect harbors and bays. He discusses hurricanes, storm surges, and hurricane-generated waves. He offers a brief history of tsunamis, including Sumatra's in 2004 and Japan's in 2011, and explains the mechanisms that generate them (including earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes). Waves can be little ripples that lap peacefully at the shore or monstrous tsunamis that destroy everything in their paths. Describing the science underlying this astonishing variety, Waves offers a different kind of beach reading.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30588-4
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Bruce Tidor

    The Essential Knowledge series offers accessible, concise, beautifully produced pocket-size books, written by leading thinkers, on topics of current interest in a variety of fields, ranging from the cultural and the historical to the scientific and the technical.

    In the information age, opinions, rationalizations, and superficial descriptions are readily available. Much harder to come by are the foundational knowledge and the principled understanding that should inform our opinions and decisions. Essential Knowledge books fill those needs. They synthesize important subject matter to help readers navigate a complex world....

    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. 1 WAVES
    (pp. 1-84)

    Why should we be interested in water waves? Other than curiosity, our primary interests are in how they affect the shore and how we can protect ourselves from injury, loss of life, and property damage. For these reasons, the questions addressed in this book relate to both the science of water waves and the engineering problem of how we cope with what nature throws at us.

    Many people around the world live near a coast and use the near-shore waters for recreation and for sustenance. Beaches are important assets to countries worldwide. Anyone who lives near a coast has seen...

  7. 2 THE WIND
    (pp. 85-100)

    What causes the normal waves we see at a beach? One might just say “The wind.” But where does the wind come from? What causes the wind, and thus what causes ocean waves, is the sun. Energy from the sun, and the rotation of the Earth, give rise to the surface winds that generate waves.

    The generation of winds is complicated. In this chapter a simplified and generalized discussion will be presented. Readers looking for more details are referred to Gordon et al. 1998, Neiburger et al. 1982, and Wells 1997.

    The Earth’s atmosphere extends upward more than 100 kilometers...

  8. 3 TIDES
    (pp. 101-114)

    The magnitude and the timing of tides are controlled primarily by the tide-generating forces of the sun and the moon. (See Ippen 1966.) But let’s look at the mechanism behind the generation of tides more closely. First, we should give some attention to certain important dimensions of these bodies:

    The average distance between the centers of Earth and the moon is 384,411 kilometers (238,862 miles).

    The average distance between the centers of the Earth and the sun is 149,395,404 kilometers (92,830,000 miles).

    The diameter of the Earth is 12,755 kilometers (7,926 miles).

    The diameter of the moon is 3,479 kilometers...

    (pp. 115-176)

    Beaches are as dynamic as the ocean that molds them. Figure 22 is a schematic drawing of the profile of a typical beach. This figure shows the nomenclature that I will use to draw attention to various parts of the beach. The formation of the beach and the changes it undergoes are complex. (For more on this subject, see Komar 1998, Dean and Dalrymple 2002, and Bird 1996.)

    In this section I will discuss a range of topics dealing with beaches: first a view of what the beach consists, then a consideration of the movement of beach material in a...

    (pp. 177-216)

    The extreme wind events that Americans call hurricanes are referred to as typhoons in Asia and as cyclones in Australia. Only the names differ. In this section, these storms will be referred to as hurricanes, and we will try to understand some of the major characteristics of the wind fields that constitute them and the waves that result. Aside from waves, another phenomenon that can be devastating during a hurricane is storm surge, an increase in the water surface elevation at the coast by tens of feet.

    Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm that came ashore late in August 2005,...

    (pp. 217-218)

    I hope to have enhanced your understanding of waves and how they affect us. I have discussed waves ranging from small summer waves to monstrous tsunamis. I have described several issues that bear on the viability of our ports. I’ve answered questions such as “Why does the Bay of Fundy have immense tide ranges?” I’ve also touched on a few engineering topics related to how we protect the coast and ourselves from the effect of waves. If you want to study any of these phenomena in more depth, I suggest that you consult the bibliography and the suggested readings....

    (pp. 219-222)
    (pp. 223-228)
    (pp. 229-232)
    (pp. 233-234)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 235-236)