Tag Archives: standing wave

Such a pretty #friendlywaves!

My long time Twitter friend Anne shared these beautiful pictures and I absolutely had to do a #friendlywaves post where I explain other people’s wave pictures.

Take a moment to admire the beautiful picture below. Wouldn’t you love to be there? I certainly would!

What can we learn from this picture? First — it’s a windy day! Not stormy, but definitely not calm, either. See how the water outside of the surf zone is dark blue and looks a little choppy? That’s the local wind doing that.

And then there are the waves that we see breaking in the foreground. Without knowing where the picture was taken, I would think that they traveled in from a large water body where there was a long fetch so they could built up over quite some distance. And then they meet the coast!

You see breaking waves of two kinds: the one marked with red ovals below, where there is hardly any buildup of the wave before it meets a rock and breaks into white, foamy turbulence. The other type of breaking waves, the ones where I marked the crests with green lines, build up over a short distance before they break because there is a more gradual decrease in water depth. The stope is still quite steep so the waves change from deep water (where they can’t feel the sea floor and have a fairly low amplitude, so we can’t distinguish wave crests further offshore than the two I marked in green) to shallow water waves that feel the sea floor and build up to break.

In contrast, let’s look at the lovely picture below.

Here, we have a sandy beach on which the waves can run out. There slope right at the water’s edge is not very steep, but seeing that we can only really spot two wave crests there has to be a change in gradient. About where the offshore wave crest is in the picture below, or possibly a little further offshore, the water depth must suddenly increase, otherwise there would be more wave crest visible further offshore. Since there aren’t any, water must be a lot deeper there.

But what I found really cool about the picture above are the trains of standing waves in the little stream that flows into the sea here. I find it so fascinating to see standing waves break in the upstream direction — so completely unintuitive, isn’t it? So much so that I dug out some pics from January for you and posted them last Friday in preparation for today’s post. Sometimes I actually plan my posts, believe it or not!

Standing waves don’t move in space because the flow of the current they are sitting on is exactly as fast as they are moving, only in the opposite direction. What is happening in the picture is that in those standing waves sit on ripples in the sand. The waves become so steep that they are constantly falling back down onto the current, get carried up the ripples again, in an endless loop. So fascinating!

#wavewatching: Standing waves on coffee on a train!

When I wrote the blog post on “wave watching in a bucket” a couple of days ago, it strongly reminded me of a movie I had filmed already back in March 2018. I was sitting on a train, still inside the train station, and noticed the pattern in my mug (also I just had gotten my awesome lighthouse thermos, hence the awkward angle of the camera).

The train is vibrating, and that vibration makes standing, concentric waves appear and disappear.

I noticed the same pattern on the lady-next-to-me’s coke zero on the bus yesterday, but felt weird leaning over and filming it. So I had to post the old movie instead. And also now I am wondering again what exactly determines the pattern in the standing waves that we get when vibrating buckets or cups with fluids in them…

A tiny waterfall, super- and subcritical flows, submerged hydraulic jump, standing waves. What more could anyone want?

Last stop on my work trip that — apart from doing important work, obviously — brought me to Berlin for some wave watching and to Brodowin to look at beaver dams: Eberswalde.

Waiting for an appointment, I sat in the sun next to this adorable little waterfall and looked at so many nice examples of phenomena.

What I like best: The standing waves that you see in the reflection of the tree to the right. They do move a tiny little bit back and forth, but overall stay pretty much in place. In that exact spot, the current velocity is clearly as large as the waves’ phase speed, so they can’t get away in either direction.

A close second place is how smooth the turbulent current gets right before it plunges down the waterfall (see how the turbulence upstream looks like structures are more or less as long as they are wide, and then they become really long ellipses as they are accelerated towards the waterfall and the front is going faster than the back?), and the submerged hydraulic jump (and check out the video in this post for another really cool one!). And I love how the water is boiling with turbulence below the waterfall — at least in the part in the front; in the back there is a lot less flow and a lot less turbulence. Isn’t it amazing how much there is to see in such a little bit of a stream?

Btw, do you know my awesome animations to illustrate subcritical and supercritical flow regimes? Poor figurines running up and down escalators like so:

Standing waves

One thing I find endlessly fascinating are – you might have heard it before – standing waves. At the waterfront in Kiel I saw some the other day:


Watch the movie below and be fascinated, too! :-)

Isn’t it amazing how wave crests and troughs seem to appear out of nowhere and vanish again? When we are so used to seeing waves propagate, this is such an interesting variation of the theme! And it makes it somehow more easy to accept that waves transport energy, not mass, because if we can’t see which way they propagate, which way would they transport mass?


Wave phenomena on the Pinnau in Mölln. By Mirjam S. Glessmer

Observing hydrodynamic phenomena on a creek

Looking at a creek on a Sunday stroll, and seeing lots and lots of concepts from hydrodynamics class.

For example below, you see waves radiating from each of the ducks. And you see interference of waves from all those ducks.


What happens if the ducks bring their waves closer?


At some point, all those waves from the ducks are going to hit the weir in the picture below.


And there, they are going to somehow react to the flow field caused by the changes in topography.


And you can spot so many different phenomena: Standing waves, hydraulic jumps, and lots more!


Watch the movie below to see the whole thing even better!

Btw, you might remember this spot, I have talked about standing waves from right there before. Interestingly, the wave pattern in the other post looks really different, probably due to different water levels or changes in topography (maybe someone threw in rocks or they did some construction work on the weir?). But it is still just as fascinating as last time :-)

And for those of you who like to see a “making of”:

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Standing waves in a tank

And really high order ones, too!

On Monday, I showed you a movie on wave generation in Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA)’s wave tank. At the end of that movie, we see that the wave energy is being dissipated by a “beach”. Well, we actually see that some of the energy is reflected in those cute little baby waves. And there is another fraction of the total energy that passes through the beach into another part of the tank. And that’s what I want to show you today.

When I’ve talked about standing waves in a tank before, that always meant the simplest form: Only one node. We have always tried to avoid higher-order modes before, partly because they are a lot more difficult to generate, at least using our method.

But here is what happened in the wave tank:

Isn’t it beautiful?

Seesawing of standing waves.

Improving one of the experiments run in the GEOF130 lab.

One experiment that has been run in GEOF130 forever is the “standing wave”, where a wave is excited in a long and narrow tank and then, for different water depths, the period is measured and the velocity calculated in order to compare it to the one calculated from the shallow water wave equation.

Traditionally, the standing wave is excited by lifting one end of the tank, letting the water settle down, and carefully putting the tank back down. This, however, means that someone has to lift a pretty heavy weight. So Pierre and I were quite proud of ourselves when we constructed a pulley system last year and now instead of lifting the weight up, someone could hang on a rope instead.

However, this was still hard work, and even though the picture shows a student doing the lifting, for most lab groups it was actually Pierre who did it.

But then this year, we came up with a much simpler solution and I don’t know how we didn’t see this before now. As Pierre remarked: We talk about seesawing standing waves ALL THE TIME. How did it not occur to us that the simplest setup would be a seesaw? So now we have two wooden blocks underneath the tank, one supporting it in the middle and one underneath the end where the operator is standing. So all that needs to happen now is a slight lift of the tank and then a slight downward push to bring it back in the horizontal.

So much easier!