Wave phase shift at coastal structures

James Sutherland*, Tom O'Donoghue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Wave reflection from coastal structures is defined by the magnitude and phase of the reflected wave. Both properties have a profound impact on the wave kinematics and coastal processes in front of the structure. This paper focuses on the phase shift on reflection. Using a large experimental data set, involving normally incident and obliquely incident regular and irregular waves, it is shown that the phase is uniquely determined by a nondimensional number χ3 defined by structure slope, water depth at the structure toe, wave period, and angle of incidence. A theoretical method for predicting phase shift based on matching the equation for linear long waves on a sloping beach with an equation for flat-bed standing waves seaward of the structure toe yields good estimates of the phase shift at low values of χ3. A second method based on integration of the shallow water wave number over the slope is considered and not recommended. Example cases are presented that demonstrate the practical importance of the phase shift in determining the kinematics in front of the structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Engineering
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 1998
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1998

Bibliographical note

The writers would like to acknowledge the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for their financial support of this project and HR Wallingford Ltd. for their co-sponsorship of the UKCRF. The authors would also like to thank S. A. Hughes of USAE WES CERC for providing the Hughes and Fowler (1995) dataset.


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