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On the generation of surface waves by shear flows

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2006

John W. Miles
Department of Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles


A mechanism for the generation of surface waves by a parallel shear flow U(y) is developed on the basis of the inviscid Orr-Sommerfeld equation. It is found that the rate at which energy is transferred to a wave of speed c is proportional to the profile curvature -U"(y) at that elevation where U = c. The result is applied to the generation of deep-water gravity waves by wind. An approximate solution to the boundary value problem is developed for a logarithmic profile and the corresponding spectral distribution of the energy transfer coefficient calculated as a function of wave speed. The minimum wind speed for the initiation of gravity waves against laminar dissipation in water having negligible mean motion is found to be roughly 100cm/sec. A spectral mean value of the sheltering coefficient, as defined by Munk, is found to be in order-of-magnitude agreement with total wave drag measurements of Van Dorn. It is concluded that the model yields results in qualitative agreement with observation, but truly quantitative comparisons would require a more accurate solution of the boundary value problem and more precise data on wind profiles than are presently available. The results also may have application to the flutter of membranes and panels.

Research Article
© 1957 Cambridge University Press

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