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A subcritical instability of wave-driven alongshore currents
Dodd, Nick; Iranzo, Vicente; Caballeria, Miquel
The development of shear instabilities of a wave-driven alongshore current is investigated. In particular, we use weakly nonlinear theory to investigate the possibility that such instabilities, which have been observed at various sites on the U.S. coast and in the laboratory, can grow in linearly stable flows as a subcritical bifurcation by resonant triad interaction, as first suggested by Shrira eta/. [1997]. We examine a realistic longshore current profile and include the effects of eddy viscosity and bottom friction. We show that according to the weakly nonlinear theory, resonance is possible and that these linearly stable flows may exhibit explosive instabilities. We show that this phenomenon may occur also when there is only approximate resonance, which is more likely in nature. Furthermore, the size of the perturbation that is required to trigger the instability is shown in some circumstances to be consistent with the size of naturally occurring perturbations. Finally, we consider the differences between the present case examined and the more idealized case of Shrira et a/. [ 1997]. It is shown that there is a possibility of coupling between triads, due to the richer modal structure in more realistic flows, which may act to stabilize the flow and act against the development of subcritical bifurcations. Extensive numerical tests are called for.
(c) American Geophysical Union, 2004
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American Geophyisical Union

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