Diamond-Shaped Waves

Strong winds blowing across Lake Michigan created this diamond-shaped wave pattern after the incoming waves reflected off the breakwater on the right. The formal name for these waves are clapotis gaufré, meaning “waffled standing waves”. As seen in the animation above, the waves aren’t perfect standing waves; otherwise they would stay in one place rather than propagating toward shore. This happens because the angle of reflection is not exactly 90 degrees.

As neat as clapotis gaufré waves look, they’re a significant problem for the builders of coastal infrastructure. The waves generate vortices underwater that are extremely good at eroding underlying sediment. (Image and video credit: T. Wenzel; via EPOD; submitted by Vince D.)

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