Longshore currents generated by obliquely incident sea waves: 1


  • M. S. Longuet-Higgins


By using known results on the radiation stress associated with gravity waves, the total lateral thrust exerted by incoming waves on the beach and in the nearshore zone is rigorously shown to equal (E0/4) sin 2θ0 per unit distance parallel to the coastline, where E0 denotes the energy density of the waves in deep water and θ0 denotes the waves' angle of incidence. The local stress exerted on the surf zone in steady conditions is shown to be given by (D/c) sin θ per unit area, where D is the local rate of energy dissipation and c is the phase velocity. These relations are independent of the manner of the energy dissipation, but, because breaker height is related to local depth in shallow water, it is argued that ordinarily most of the dissipation is due to wave breaking, not to bottom friction. Under these conditions the local mean longshore stress in the surf zone will be given by (5/4)ρumax2 s sin θ, where ρ is the density, umax is the maximum orbital velocity in the waves, s is the local beach slope, and θ is the angle of incidence. It is further shown that, if the friction coefficient C on the bottom is assumed constant and if horizontal mixing is neglected, the mean longshore component of velocity is given by (5π/8)(s/C) umax sin θ. This value is proportional to the longshore component of the orbital velocity. When the horizontal mixing is taken into account, the longshore currents observed in field observations and laboratory experiments are consistent with a friction coefficient of about 0.010.