The effect of artificial reef configuration on wave breaking intensity relating to recreational surfing conditions

Johnson, Craig Michael (2009-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Civil Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


Multi purpose reefs are a relatively new concept that incorporate functionalities of beach stabilization, breakwater/seawall protection, biological enhancement and recreational amenity. Economic benefits increase their attractiveness. There is, however, some degree of uncertainty in design guidelines as to the predictability of each of these aspects. With regards to recreational amenity enhancement, one such uncertainty exists in the ability to predict the reef configuration required to give a certain degree of surfability of a reef, and more specifically, to predict the shape of a plunging wave. An extensive survey of the relevant literature has been conducted to provide a background on multi purpose reefs and the uncertainties in predicting the success of multi purpose reefs in achieving their design objectives. A study of wave breaking has been done, along with an analysis of existing breaker height and breaker depth formulae. The effects of bottom friction, refraction, shoaling, winds currents and varying water level on wave breaking has been addressed. Surfability aspects were reviewed including a definition of breaking intensity which is defined by the wave profile in terms of vortex shape parameters, and other surfability parameters that influence the surfability of a reef. Background on numerical modelling methods has been given, along with a description and some trial runs of a new and promising method, Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics. Numerical models were run using the open source SPHysics package in order to assess the applicability of the package in measuring vortex shape parameters. The SPHysics package is, however, still in a stage of development, and is not yet suitable for reef studies with very long domains and with high numbers of particles (required for sufficient resolution in the plunging vortex). A theoretical examination was done on the relevant literature in order to gain an insight into the dynamics affecting the development of the plunging vortex shape. A case study of a natural surf reef was carried out in order to give qualitative estimation of the wave dynamics and reef structure required to give good quality surfing waves and high breaking intensity. The West- Cowell surfing reef factor was used as a tool in predicting wave focusing effects of a naturally occurring reef. Extensive two dimensional physical model laboratory studies were conducted in order to quantify the effects of the reef configuration and wave parameters on breaking intensity. Design guidelines were developed in order to assist in the prediction of breaking intensity for reefs constructed with surfing amenity enhancement as one of their design objectives. The results show that large underwater topographic features can significantly affect the shape and size of incoming waves. Refraction, focusing and shoaling can transform ordinary waves into waves deemed suitable for surfing. The West-Cowell surfing reef factor gives reasonable results outside its applicable range. The 2D physical model laboratory tests show significant variations in vortex shape parameters due to interactions between broken and unbroken waves in a wave train and also to the reflections developed in the flume. Results show that the predicted trends agree with the observations. The results also show that the junction between the seaward reef slope and the horizontal crest may have an effect on the wave shape in the form of a secondary crest between the primary crests. Design guidelines based on the results are presented, and show that breaker height formulae for smooth planar slopes show good agreement with the values of breaker heights measured in the physical model tests, and that existing breaker depth formulae show average agreement. The design guidelines could assist with more effective design of artificial reefs for surfing purposes.

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