Spatial and temporal distributions of turbulence under bichromatic breaking waves

Joep van der Zanden*, Dominic A. van der A, Iván Cáceres, Bjarke Eltard Larsen, Guillaume Fromant, Carmelo Petrotta, Pietro Scandura, Ming Li

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    The present study aims to extend insights of surf zone turbulence dynamics to wave groups. In a large-scale wave flume, bichromatic wave groups were produced with 31.5 s group period, 4.2 s mean wave period, and a 0.58 m maximum wave height near the paddle. This condition resulted in plunging-type wave breaking over a fixed, gravel-bed, barred profile. Optic, acoustic and electromagnetic instruments were used to measure the flow and the spatial and temporal distributions of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE). The measurements showed that turbulence in the shoaling region is primarily bed-generated and decays almost fully within one wave cycle, leading to TKE variations at the short wave frequency. The wave breaking-generated turbulence, in contrast, decays over multiple wave cycles, leading to a gradual increase and decay of TKE during a wave group cycle. In the wave breaking region, TKE dynamics are driven by the production and subsequent downward transport of turbulence under the successive breaking waves in the group. Consequently, the maximum near-bed TKE in the breaking region can lag the highest breaking wave by up to 2.5 wave cycles. The net cross-shore transport of TKE is in the shoaling region primarily driven by short-wave velocities and is shoreward-directed; in the wave breaking region, the TKE transport is seaward-directed by the undertow and the long-wave velocities. Downward transport of TKE is driven by the vertical component of the time-averaged flow. The cross-shore and vertical diffusive transport rates are small relative to the advective transport rates.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCoastal Engineering
    Pages (from-to)65-80
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Bichromatic waves
    • Breaking waves
    • Surf zone
    • Turbulence
    • Wave flume experiment
    • Wave groups


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