The common assumption that the energy of waves on a non-uniform current U is propagated with a velocity (U + c) where cg is the group-velocity, and that no further interaction takes place, is shown in this paper to be incorrect. In fact the current does additional work on the waves at a rate γijSij where γij is the symmetric rate-of-strain tensor associated with the current, and Sij is the radiation stress tensor introduced earlier (Longuet-Higgins & Stewart 1960).
In the present paper we first obtain an asymptotic solution for the combined velocity potential in the simple case (1) when the non-uniform current U is in the direction of wave propagation and the horizontal variation of U is compensated by a vertical upwelling from below. The change in wave amplitude is shown to be such as would be found by inclusion of the radiation stress term.
In a second example (2) the current on the x-axis is assumed to be as in (1), but the horizontal variation in U is compensated by a small horizontal inflow from the sides. It is found that in that case the wave amplitude is also affected by the horizontal advection of wave energy from the sides.
From cases (1) and (2) the general law of interaction between short waves and non-uniform currents is inferred. This is then applied to a third example (3) when waves encounter a current with vertical axis of shear, at an oblique angle. The change in wave amplitude is shown to differ somewhat from the previously accepted value.
The conclusion that non-linear interactions affect the amplification of the waves has some bearing on the theoretical efficiency of hydraulic and pneumatic breakwaters.
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