Experimental study of nearshore dynamics on a barred beach with rip channels

Merrick C. Haller*, Robert A. Dalrymple, Ib A. Svendsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Wave and current measurements are presented from a set of laboratory experiments performed on a fixed barred beach with periodically spaced rip channels using a range of incident wave conditions. The data demonstrate that the presence of gaps in otherwise longshore uniform bars dominates the nearshore circulation system for the incident wave conditions considered. For example, nonzero cross-shore flow and the presence of longshore pressure gradients, both resulting from the presence of rip channels, are not restricted to the immediate vicinity of the channels but instead are found to span almost the entire length of the longshore bars. In addition, the combination of breaker type and location is the dominant driving mechanism of the nearshore flow, and both are found to be strongly influenced by the variable bathymetry and the presence of a strong rip current. The depth-averaged currents are calculated from the measured velocities assuming conservation of mass across the measurement grid. The terms in both the cross-shore and longshore momentum balances are calculated, and their relative magnitudes are quantified. The cross-shore balance is shown to be dominated by the cross-shore pressure and radiation stress gradients in general agreement with previous results, however, the rip current is shown to influence the wave breaking and the wave-induced setup in the rip channel. Analysis of the longshore balance shows that the overall strength of the longshore feeder currents is governed by a balance between longshore pressure gradient forcing and an opposing radiation stress gradient. In addition, the longshore feeder currents show maxima in the bar trough region, providing experimental evidence that longshore pressure gradients can shift longshore current maxima shoreward from the bar crest. Finally, since the longshore radiation stress gradient in the surf zone is governed by the amount of wave dissipation on the rip current, there exists a positive feedback mechanism whereby a strong rip current can weaken the radiation stress gradient opposing the feeder currents and lead to even stronger feeder currents and rips.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-1-14-21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 15 2002


  • Longshore current
  • Nearshore
  • Rip channel
  • Rip current
  • Sand bar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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