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  1. Abstract

    There are few high‐resolution field observations of the water surface during breaking owing to the difficulty of collecting spatially dense measurements in the surf zone, and thus the factors influencing breaking‐wave shape in field conditions remain poorly understood. Here, the shape and evolution of plunging breakers is analyzed quantitatively using three‐dimensional scans of the water surface collected at high spatial and temporal resolution with a multi‐beam terrestrial lidar scanner. The observed internal void shapes in plunging breakers agree well with previously developed theoretical shapes at the onset of breaking, and become more elongated and less steep as breaking progresses. The normalized void area increases as the local bottom slope steepens and as the breaking depth decreases. The void shape becomes more circular as the local bottom slope and the ratio of breaking water depth to wavelength increase, as well as in conditions with opposing winds.

     
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  2. Low-frequency, many-minute-period horizontal surfzone eddies are an important mechanism for the dispersion of material, transporting larvae, pollutants, sediment, and swimmers both across and along the nearshore. Previous numerical, laboratory, and field observations on alongshore uniform bathymetry with no or roughly uniform mean background flows suggest that the low-frequency eddies may be the result of a two-dimensional inverse energy cascade that transfers energy from relatively small spatial-scale vorticity injected by depth limited breaking waves to larger and larger spatial scales. Here, using remotely sensed high-spatial resolution estimates of currents, those results are extended to surfzones with strong complex mean circulation patterns [flows O(1 m/s)] owing to nonuniform bathymetry. Similar to previous results, wavenumber spectra and second-order structure functions calculated from the observations are consistent with a two-dimensional inverse energy cascade. The size of the largest eddies is shown to depend on the surfzone width and the spatial scales of the mean currents. Third-order structure functions also are consistent with an inverse cascade for spatial scales greater than ∼50 m. At smaller scales, the third-order structure functions suggest a mixture of inverse and forward cascades.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  3. Abstract. Ocean surges pose a global threat for coastal stability.These hazardous events alter flow conditions and pore pressures in floodedbeach areas during both inundation and subsequent retreat stages, which canmobilize beach material, potentially enhancing erosion significantly. Inthis study, the evolution of surge-induced pore-pressure gradients is studied through numerical hydrologic simulations of storm surges. The spatiotemporal variability of critically high gradients is analyzed in three dimensions. The analysis is based on a threshold value obtained for quicksand formationof beach materials under groundwater seepage. Simulations of surge eventsshow that, during the run-up stage, head gradients can rise to the calculated critical level landward of the advancing inundation line. During thereceding stage, critical gradients were simulated seaward of the retreatinginundation line. These gradients reach maximum magnitudes just as sea levelreturns to pre-surge levels and are most accentuated beneath the still-water shoreline, where the model surface changes slope. The gradients vary alongthe shore owing to variable beach morphology, with the largest gradientsseaward of intermediate-scale (1–3 m elevation) topographic elements (dunes)in the flood zone. These findings suggest that the common practices inmonitoring and mitigating surge-induced failures and erosion, which typically focus on the flattest areas of beaches, might need to be revised to include other topographic features. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Low-frequency currents and eddies transport sediment, pathogens, larvae, and heat along the coast and between the shoreline and deeper water. Here, low-frequency currents (between 0.1 and 4.0 mHz) observed in shallow surfzone waters for 120 days during a wide range of wave conditions are compared with theories for generation by instabilities of alongshore currents, by ocean-wave-induced sea surface modulations, and by a nonlinear transfer of energy from breaking waves to low-frequency motions via a two-dimensional inverse energy cascade. For these data, the low-frequency currents are not strongly correlated with shear of the alongshore current, with the strength of the alongshore current, or with wave-group statistics. In contrast, on many occasions, the low-frequency currents are consistent with an inverse energy cascade from breaking waves. The energy of the low-frequency surfzone currents increases with the directional spread of the wave field, consistent with vorticity injection by short-crested breaking waves, and structure functions increase with spatial lags, consistent with a cascade of energy from few-meter-scale vortices to larger-scale motions. These results include the first field evidence for the inverse energy cascade in the surfzone and suggest that breaking waves and nonlinear energy transfers should be considered when estimating nearshore transport processes across and along the coast. 
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