Remote observation of the spatial variability of surface waves interacting with an estuarine outflow

Brian K. Haus, Rafael J. Ramos, Hans C. Graber, Lynn K. Shay, Zachariah R. Hallock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper explores the application of phased-array high-frequency (HF) radars to identify locations of enhanced local waveheights. Measurements of the near-surface current velocities and waveheights were obtained from HF radars deployed near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in the fall of 1997. The radar- derived near-surface velocities were compared with the upper bin (2-m depth) of four upward-looking acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs). The slopes of the linear correlations were close to one and the root-mean-square (rms) differences were similar to previous studies. Significant waveheight (Hs) estimates from both radars were compared with a laser height gauge. The largest differences were observed during low winds due to overestimates at one of the radar stations and during storms when the laser measurement failed. Further analysis focused on the HF radar results from the more reliable of the two sites. The rms difference between this radar and the in situ sensor was 0.29 m. Synoptic observations of H s over the Chesapeake Bay revealed regions of current-induced wave shoaling and refraction. H s over the estuarine outflow increased between 1950% relative to the incident H s in light onshore winds (∼ 5 m/s). In stronger winds (> 10 m/s), Hs also increased by up to 25% when there was a tidal outflow in the surface layer, although the near-surface currents were responding to both the wind and the ebbing tide. H s was not enhanced when the outflow was below a thicker layer (> 5 m) of wind-forced onshore flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-849
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Coastal currents
  • High-frequency (HF) radar
  • Shoaling
  • Wave refraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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