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Old Jan 27th 2015, 12:13 PM   #1
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Ocean waves and Huygen's Principle

Ocean waves can travel in any direction, but waves breaking on the sea-shore are usually approximately parallel to the line of the beach. How can Huygen's principle explain this phenomenon? Does it have something to do with the fact that the velocity of the waves decreases as the water gets shallower?
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Old Jan 28th 2015, 11:24 AM   #2
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I am sure I recently saw this on a TV documentry and yes the explaination was that the change in speed of the waves as the beach gets shallower produces an effect, very similar to refraction, that brings the waves into a more parallel angle to the shore.
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Old Dec 21st 2015, 12:39 PM   #3
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Ocean Waves

I think you are confusing reality with illusion ? Ocean waves are generated up to 200 miles, or more, off shore. Yes, starting from the circular wind-storm responsible, they do indeed radiate in every direction
by the time they reach an observer on the shore their circular formation has extended to such a large radius that any perceived portion of the wave-front approximates to a straight line.

This is a spectacular sight when standing in the cockpit of a small boat say 20 miles or more off-shore with your feet some 3-feet below the (average) water level. Endless ranks of apparently straight hills of water bear malevolently down on you stretching from horizon to horizon. Tireless.

Properly handled the boat can take care of the situation which is moe than can be said of the first-timer's pants!

On a local basis, where the wind is not normal to the shore line, each wavefront can be seen to scamper joyfullyalong that shore and leave in its wake a reflected wave admirably illustrating the principle that the angle of incidence equals the reflected angle.

Ken Green
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