Wakes and what they do to the sun’s reflection

When I said that wake watching made me happy last week, did you really think those were all the wakes I was going to show you? Ha! No, I have plenty more! :-)

Today, I want to show you a couple that have one thing in common: the way that they show up against the sun’s reflection and thus become a lot more visible than they would be if they were just reflecting a uniformly blue or grey sky.





Reflected wake

The best ship-watching of the year happens during Kiel Week (even if I do a fair bit of ship-watching year round ;-))

But this year, I was absolutely fascinated with wake-watching. Look at the sailing ship below and its beautiful wake!


You very clearly see the streak directly behind the boat, caused by turbulence where the hull pushed through the water. And then there is the actual wake, fanning out from the ship.


And then that wake gets reflected on a sea wall as the ship is sailing past!


Watching things like this makes me happy :-)

Wave watching 

This is an old picture from early spring, but I just love how the reflection of that pier shows up the different wave lengths so clearly. The longer swell wouldn’t have been visible just from reflections of the sky…

Waves reflecting on a sea wall

I really like it when waves reach a sea wall at an angle, because the resulting criss-cross looks so cool :-)

And especially cool when you see it gradually building up, like below where the sea wall is partly protected by the gravel (or whatever you call those heaps of stones running in parallel to the sea wall?). The energy of waves hitting the sea wall at that part is dissipated, hence no reflected wave is sent off. However waves that hit the sea wall directly are reflected. Can you see how the reflections spread?

See it more easily in the movie below:

Playing with a thermal imaging camera

I recently borrowed a thermal imaging camera from work. So much fun!

Below you see a cold sky, warmer trees and two really warm people walking through the park.


One thing that really surprised me was to see reflections of the warmer trees on the little lake below. Although thinking about it, I am not sure why I should be surprised: If it was a “normal” image and not a thermal image, reflections wouldn’t surprise me at all. So why should thermal radiation behave any different?


But it messed up my plans quite a bit. I had hoped to maybe be able to see heat being transferred when waves crashed against the sea wall. But a) there were no waves, and b) what did the waves do? Correct: reflect the sky.  Just like they always do…

So this is what we see:


And this is what the thermal imaging camera sees:


On a different day you clearly see the warmer clouds:

As well as the apparently much warmer ships.

And looking down from the sea wall:


And what the camera sees:



Do you know the feeling when you, even on the most beautiful of days, want to get out of the pretty parks as quickly as possible so you can finally see the water?


Especially when it’s foggy?


And it is so worth it, there is always something to see. For example on that day: what a nice field of shallow water waves!


And what an awesome criss-crossing of waves being reflected on the sea wall on which I was standing when taking that picture.


And how sad that this lake was frozen over! :-)


P.S.: Still looking for a christmas present for your nerdy friend, your niece, anyone who should spend more time looking at water? Check out my book :-)

Reflections on reflections

When we think about reflections in water, we usually think of calm lakes and trees on the shore opposite to us. Or clouds. Or at least that’s what I think of: Everything is so far away, that it seems to be reflected at an axis that is a horizontal line far away from us.

Then the other day I walked along Kiel Fjord and it hit me that I had never actually consciously observed reflection of things that are located close to my position, and especially things who are not pretty much equidistant to me, but where one end is a lot closer than another one. Consider the picture below: Do you notice something that looks kinda odd to you (while at the same time looking super familiar)?


If you are wondering what I mean, I marked it in red in the picture below: The rope and its reflection! It’s embarrassing to say that (as someone who has been sailing A LOT since the age of 7) this was the first time I really noticed, but it struck me how the maximum of the parable of the reflected rope isn’t right below the minimum of the parable of the rope, but seems shifted to the left. Of course this is exactly how it should be if we think about the optics, but I was really shocked that I had never noticed before and never thought about it before! I bet if I had had to draw the reflection I would have done it wrong and probably not even noticed…


Here is another picture to show you what I mean. This is what it looks like:


Below I’ve drawn in the original objects in blue, the axis of reflection in red and then the reflection in green:


So far, so good, everything looking the way it’s supposed to look. Right? Then look at the picture below:

Sorry if this seems obvious to you, but I’m fascinated with this right now :-)

But it leads to another interesting thought: Asking people to draw stuff in order to both check their understanding and also make them reflect on their understanding. I recently had the opportunity to observe a class of master students draw the SST of the mean state of the Pacific Ocean (which was an exercise that I had suggested in connection with a class on El Nino. I thought it would be neat to have them draw the mean state and then later the anomalies of El Nino and La Nina to activate prior knowledge) and it was surprising how difficult that was even though I’m sure they would all have claimed to know what the mean state looks like. Having to draw stuff really confronts us with how sure we are of things we just assumed we knew…

And then I’m pretty sure that once we’ve drawn something that we have constructed ourselves from what we knew (rather than just copied a drawing from the blackboard or a book, although I think that also helps a lot), we are a lot less likely to forget it again.

Anyway, this is a type of exercise I will use — and recommend — a lot more in the future!

Another wave hunt expedition: Learning to discover ocean physics wherever you go

One of my favourite topics right now: Learning to “see” ocean physics wherever you go. For example here: A visit to my goddaughter in Schleswig, and this time we are practicing all she and her mom read about in MY BOOK (and if you have good ideas for a title for that book, please let me know!). So today I’m showing you pictures of phenomena similar to those in my book, but discovered on this recent visit.

For example diffraction when waves pass this pier:


In the image below, I’m showing what I mean: Waves coming in from the right have straight crests (red). As they pass the pier, they get diffracted and bent around (green).

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In this spot, this phenomenon can be seen on most days. I wrote about it before, but I have more pictures from previous visits, where the same thing happens in the opposite direction, too: Waves propagating in from the left and being bent around the pier to the right.

Or we can see other wave crests, meeting a rock that breaks the water’s surface.


Those waves (shown in red in the image below) get reflected from the rock, and circular waves radiate away from the rock (green).

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A similar thing can also be observed from a flag moored out in the water:


This time, incoming waves are green and the circular waves radiating off the flag are red.

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And we also got to see awesome criss-crossing again, albeit in a different spot:


Here we have the red wave crests coming in, and the green reflections.

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If we look at it from a little more distance, we can also see another phenomenon: The wave crests are refracted towards the shallower shore:


Again the red crests are the original, incoming ones, and the green ones are the reflection:

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And then finally, let’s look at duckies again. And on waves being created by wind:


Below you see the direction of the wind (white): One side of this little channel is shaded from the wind, so hardly any ripples there. But then on the other side, we clearly see ripples and small waves. And we see the wake the ducky made!

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And one last picture: Which direction does this little channel flow in?


Yep. From the left to the right!

If you enjoy discovering this kind of stuff on your walks, or know someone who enjoys it, or want someone to learn to enjoy it, you might want to consider checking out my book. In my book, I show many pictures like those above, but I actually explain what is shown in the pictures rather than assuming (like I do on this blog) that my readers are oceanographers anyway… :-)

Diffraction and reflection of waves

Last night, we saw really nice wave phenomena on the Schlei in Schleswig.

Do you see the waves being diffracted by the pier in the picture below?


Waves are coming in from the right (see the three lines on the right in the picture below) and at the head of the pier they get bent around (all other lines).

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Now look at the line on the very left. What happens where that wave hits the pier?



Awesome criss-crossing of wave crests!


An annotated picture of what happens below: The red lines show the incoming original wave crests, and the green lines show the wave crests of the wave that got reflected by the shore.

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If all those lines are a tad confusing, thankfully a ducky in a fairly wave-less spot made a single wake which also got reflected on the sea wall:


Same picture as above, this time with the original wake marked in red, and the reflected wake marked in green:

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Nice evening, isn’t it?


And since everybody else is asleep, I put together some short video clips into a movie for you:

What I learned from the movie-making? I need to take longer footage and practice my editing-skills! :-)

More wave phenomena on a lake, and a bit about wind

Waves on Aasee in Münster. By Mirjam S. Glessmer

Last week I showed you the results of my “wave hunt expedition” on Aasee in Münster. Today, I am following up with the same lake on the day after and the day after that. Even more wave phenomena to observe!

First, on my second day in Münster on my way to the conference:

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Clearly it had been windy for a while with more or less constant winds: You see Langmuir circulation cells.

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So imagine my surprise when, on day 3, I wake up to this view:


Absolutely no waves at all, and no wind! Reason enough for a pre-breakfast stroll.


As I was walking the wind picked up, as you can see in the increased surface roughness in the middle of the lake.


But many parts of the lake were still completely calm. For example that weird building, which I sat at for the next half hour or so.


Sitting there, I watched the “sea state” turn to slightly more wavy (see above — aren’t those pretty reflection patterns? :-))


And I love how you have those tiny wave trains. So pretty!

At some point it got too windy for my liking, and I wandered on. And noticed a spot that I had missed on my last walk: A drain going into the lake, making more pretty patterns!


Eventually I had walked all the way around the lake again into the lee of the land, which would have been really boring if it had not been for some duckies:


Oh, and of course more pretty reflections.


Hope you have a great day, too! :-)