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Scientists at University of California, San Diego find wave's 'sweet spot'

"By studying the acceleration of a theoretical surfer on a wave, we can provide a better description of the currents generated by breaking waves," said researcher Nick Pizzo.

By Brooks Hays

June 29 (UPI) -- A team of researchers in California have identified a wave's "sweet spot."

The sweet spot is a wave's most powerful point. When riding a wave, surfers are often searching for the sweet spot.

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Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego used a combination of math, physics and fluid dynamics to determine where a wave's energy is most efficiently transferred to a particle or object -- like a surfer -- on the ocean surface.

"Based upon the speed and geometry of the wave, you can determine the conditions to surf a wave and also where on the wave the maximum acceleration, or 'sweet spot,' will be located," lead researcher Nick Pizzo, a UCSD postdoctoral researcher and avid surfer, said in a news release.

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A wave's sweet spot, as revealed in the Journal of Fluid Dynamics this week, is located right inside the curl.

Pizzo and his colleagues are studying the physics of breaking waves to better understand how exchanges between the oceans and atmosphere influence climate and weather.

Sea spray ejected into the air by crashing waves are seemingly small but critical components in weather and climate systems. Improved modeling of this small-scale process can help scientists better predict storm systems.

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"The study was motivated by important scientific questions that lead to a better description of the upper ocean to be used in weather and climate models," Pizzo said. "By studying the acceleration of a theoretical surfer on a wave, we can provide a better description of the currents generated by breaking waves, leading to an improved understanding of the momentum and energy budget between the atmosphere and ocean."

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