Low-frequency characteristics of wave group–forced vortices

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Abstract

[1] The dynamics of vorticity motions forced by wave groups incident on an alongshore-uniform barred beach are analyzed. For both normally and obliquely incident wave groups, the potential vorticity and enstrophy equations reveal that the temporal variability of wave group–forced vortices is directly linked to the variability in the incoming wave groups rather than bottom friction, as previously hypothesized. Analysis of the lifespan of individual vortices further shows that the wave group forcing is responsible for not only the temporal variations of the vortices but also their eventual demise. Vortices in the simulations persist for 5 to 45 min, which is consistent with recent field observations. For oblique wave groups, the resulting vortices are advected by the mean current, yielding a signature in the frequency–wave number spectrum that is similar to that usually attributed to shear instabilities of the alongshore current. These results may explain previous observations of alongshore-propagating vorticity motions in the presence of a stable alongshore current. For simulations involving an unstable alongshore current, we find that the inclusion of wave group forcing results in velocity spectra that are much broader compared to the simulations that neglect wave grouping, which could explain discrepancies between previously observed and modeled spectral widths of propagating vorticity motions. Finally, the potential enstrophy balance shows that vorticity production due to wave groups may be as important as that due to the instability process and that not all low-frequency vortical motions observed during oblique wave incidence should be attributed to shear instabilities of the alongshore current.

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