Surf zone, infragravity wave energy flux, and runup in extreme conditions

Monday, 15 December 2014
Julia W Fiedler1, Katherine L Brodie2, Jesse McNinch3 and Robert T Guza1, (1)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)US Army Corps of Engineers, Field Research Facility, Jacksonville, FL, United States, (3)US Army Corps of Engineers, Field Research Facility, Kitty Hawk, NC, United States
Waves, currents, and sand levels were observed on a 1.4 km-long cross-shore transect extending from the back beach to ~11 m water depth at Agate Beach, Oregon in Fall 2013. Wave runup and water table fluctuations on this low slope (1:80) beach were measured with a cliff-mounted scanning Lidar and buried pressure sensors. Significant wave heights at an offshore buoy in 128m depth ranged from small (0.5m) to extreme (7.5m), with peak periods between 4-22 seconds. Infragravity frequency (nominally 0.01 Hz) horizontal runup excursions exceeded 100m, and infragravity cross-shore velocity exceeded 3 m/s. Cross-shore patterns of infragravity wave energy flux, observed with seven co-located pressure and current meters, indicate ‘proto-saturation’ of the inner surfzone in extreme conditions. That is, the intensification of incident wave forcing (e.g. higher energy, longer swell) leads to a wider surfzone and an increase in the shoreward infragravity wave energy seaward of the surfzone, but produces more modest increases in flux in the inner surfzone, and in the runup. Nonlinear energy balances, based on the observations, show transfer of energy from sea-swell to infragravity waves, and vice-versa. The infragravity energy balance closes in cases with low energy incident sea-swell. With more energetic incident waves, there is an unexplained inner surfzone energy sink at the lowest IG frequencies (0.004-0.02 Hz). Ongoing work aims to quantify the effect on infragravity energy balances by infragravity wave breaking and bottom friction. Additionally, the estimates may be degraded by contamination with rotational velocities of surfzone eddies. Whatever the dynamical explanation, infragravity wave runup on a low slope beach in high-energy conditions is limited significantly by dissipation. The slow rate of runup increase suggests nascent, or ‘proto’ saturation. This work was supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.