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Current Meter Performance in the Surf Zone

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  • 1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

Statistics of the nearshore velocity field in the wind–wave frequency band estimated from acoustic Doppler, acoustic travel time, and electromagnetic current meters are similar. Specifically, current meters deployed 25–100 cm above the seafloor in 75–275-cm water depth in conditions that ranged from small-amplitude unbroken waves to bores in the inner surf zone produced similar estimates of cross-shore velocity spectra, total horizontal and vertical velocity variance, mean currents, mean wave direction, directional spread, and cross-shore velocity skewness and asymmetry. Estimates of seafloor location made with the acoustic Doppler sensors and collocated sonar altimeters differed by less than 5 cm. Deviations from linear theory in the observed relationship between pressure and velocity fluctuations increased with increasing ratio of wave height to water depth. The observed covariance between horizontal and vertical orbital velocities also increased with increasing height to depth ratio, consistent with a vertical flux of cross-shore momentum associated with wave dissipation in the surf zone.

Corresponding author address: Steve Elgar, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MS 11, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: elgar@whoi.edu

Abstract

Statistics of the nearshore velocity field in the wind–wave frequency band estimated from acoustic Doppler, acoustic travel time, and electromagnetic current meters are similar. Specifically, current meters deployed 25–100 cm above the seafloor in 75–275-cm water depth in conditions that ranged from small-amplitude unbroken waves to bores in the inner surf zone produced similar estimates of cross-shore velocity spectra, total horizontal and vertical velocity variance, mean currents, mean wave direction, directional spread, and cross-shore velocity skewness and asymmetry. Estimates of seafloor location made with the acoustic Doppler sensors and collocated sonar altimeters differed by less than 5 cm. Deviations from linear theory in the observed relationship between pressure and velocity fluctuations increased with increasing ratio of wave height to water depth. The observed covariance between horizontal and vertical orbital velocities also increased with increasing height to depth ratio, consistent with a vertical flux of cross-shore momentum associated with wave dissipation in the surf zone.

Corresponding author address: Steve Elgar, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MS 11, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: elgar@whoi.edu

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