Expedition learning

Last week, we ran an “expedition learning” course for 17-year olds. They were separated into several groups, working on different topics, and mine (unsurprisingly) worked on waves. You can see here what kind of stuff we observed when first testing the stretch of coastline we wanted to do our expedition to. And now you’ll get a picture dump of the actual expedition.

We started out in not-so-ideal-but-really-not-too-bad-either kind of weather, as you can read off the tracks below: It had been raining a little, but not very hard, and it had stopped by the time we got there.


The drift lines looked quite promising.


My group dove right into it (only figuratively, luckily, not literally). However I wasn’t quite sure if this guy knew what he was getting into?


At this point we were still very close to the car, so I thought that it might be quite smart strategically to let them figure out here how high the waders go and what happens if the waves are higher than the waders… And the wakes of two ships  meeting up at a headland are a very good place to learn about that kind of things!


This headland is a very good place to start observing waves in any case. Especially at the typical wind direction found here. Because then, looking back from the light house to the land, you see a large area that is sheltered where waves only build up gradually. Which is a very nice contrast to the waves arriving upwind and makes it very easy to observe differences.


And then if you look downwind from the headland, you see waves sneaking around the headland from both sides. Those coming from the right are from the fully developed wave field that has been growing all the way down Kiel fjord, and then those coming in from the left are the ones that only started growing downwind of the little barrier shown in the picture above.


Can you see it? Maybe easier on a panorama kind of picture?


Of course we always like to look at the ring waves that appear when other waves hit stones…


I didn’t foresee that wave watching would happen mostly from within the water, but the guys in my group made a good case for walking on the sand bank to actually measure the wave hight depending on the water depth (rather than just observing and estimating from dry land, as I would have done), but why not?


Luckily, they found the shallowest part of the sand bank in exactly the same spot I would have told them to look for it based on the wave field ;-)


Btw, a nice example of coastal dynamics right below. We had a coastal dynamics group, too, but I don’t even know if they looked at this kind of stuff, I mainly saw them taking soil samples.



And I know I made the same observation in the same spot last time, too, but I think it’s fascinating how the different directions of the ripples and drift lines and waves all come together.


In any case, a nice day at the beach!


Well, most of the time anyway.


Luckily, we found shelter!


Those, btw, are Annika and Jeannine, who were working with a different group on coastal vegetation.


But: New and interesting pattern on the beach once the rain was done!


The kids spent the next two days putting all their observations on maps and preparing a presentation, and I am really happy with how it turned out. Of course there is some room for improvement still, but how boring would it be if there wasn’t? ;-) All in all I think it was a pretty successful course!

Rain on water — why does each raindrop cause several concentric waves?

When we watch rain falling on a water surface, we observe that each raindrop causes several concentric waves with different radii. In my post on Tuesday I just stated that that was what we observe, but today I want to look into the explanation.

This is what it looks like when it rains on a water surface. Not much surprise here!


But when I was visiting my parents last weekend, it started to rain with nice and heavy drops that were few and far between. So I saw my chance, grabbed my camera and ran outside to try and capture exactly what happens when a rain drop hits the water surface. Not an easy task, since everything happens very fast and it’s impossible to anticipate where the next drop will fall, so I had to rely on my camera’s auto focus and just press the trigger as often as possible. And guess what? It stopped raining within a minute! How annoying is that?

But I still managed to capture enough pictures to show you what I wanted to show (see image below):

First, a raindrop just causes a dent in the surface, starting the first circular wave. But if the raindrop was sufficiently large and fast, the surface will bounce back, throwing a secondary (and sometimes tertiary) droplet up into the air. Those droplets will fall in the same spot as the first one, causing the smaller waves.


Isn’t this amazing? I’ll definitely work on better pictures in the future, but I am not sure it can be done with my camera.

[Edit 20.4.2016, 12:24. We don’t actually need the secondary and/or tertiary droplets, as Martin pointed out. It is sufficient that the surface gets deformed by the first rain drop, then bounces back and overshoots. When the water that overshot falls back down, this has the same effect as a secondary droplet: to cause a new circular wave just inside of the first one. And of course, the overshooting and triggering of new waves can happen several times, depending on the impact of the initial drop. In a way, my secondary / tertiary drops are just the extreme case of this more moderate version of wave formation.]

To wrap up this post — a bonus picture: Four stages of wave development all captured in one (lucky) shot!


Are you looking forward to the next rainy day now because then you can go outside and observe all this cool stuff?