Surface gravity wave transformation across a platform coral reef in the Red Sea

S. J. Lentz, J. H. Churchill, K. A. Davis, J. T. Farrar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The transformation of surface gravity waves across a platform reef in the Red Sea is examined using 18 months of observations and a wave transformation model developed for beaches. The platform reef is 200 m across, 700 m long, and the water depth varies from 0.3 to 1.2 m. Assuming changes in wave energy flux are due to wave breaking and bottom drag dissipation, the wave transformation model with optimal parameters characterizing the wave breaking (γm = 0.25) and bottom drag (hydrodynamic roughness zo = 0.08 m) accounts for 75%-90% of the observed wave-height variance at four sites. The observations and model indicate that wave breaking dominates the dissipation in a 20-30 m wide surf zone while bottom drag dominates the dissipation over the rest of the reef. Friction factors (drag coefficients) estimated from the observed wave energy balance range from fw = 0.5 to fw = 5 and increase as wave-orbital displacements decrease. The observed dependence on wave-orbital displacement is roughly consistent with extrapolation of an empirical relationship based on numerous laboratory studies of oscillatory flow. As a consequence of the dependence on wave-orbital displacement, wave friction factors vary temporally due to changes in water depth and incident wave heights, and spatially across the reef as the waves decay.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-705
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 22 2016
Externally publishedYes


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