Investigating the response of wave-generated ripples to changes in wave forcing

Chuang Jin, Giovanni Coco, Rafael O. Tinoco, J. Taylor Perron, Paul M. Myrow, Kimberly L. Huppert, Heide Friedrich, Evan B. Goldstein, Zheng Gong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wave-generated ripples are macroscopic roughness elements that influence fluid flow and sediment transport. For a major group of ripples (orbital ripples), morphology (height and wavelength) is set by the wave conditions. In natural conditions, where wave forcing is highly variable, ripple morphology is frequently changing. We investigate the rate of morphological change after changes in wave conditions (i.e., wave height and period), using laboratory experiments with a step-change in wave forcing. The adjustment time of ripple morphology to new conditions –– the hysteresis time scale (hereafter referred to simply as hysteresis) –– is proportional to changes in wave orbital diameter, and the coefficient of proportionality differs for decreasing and increasing orbital diameter. When the Shields parameter is lower than a threshold (0.043), there is no change in ripple morphology (or changes are extremely slow). In addition, we find the presence of defects (irregularities from straight parallel crestlines) reduces the hysteresis time scale. The dependence of hysteresis on defect density implies that a larger density of defects results in faster ripple adjustment, confirming previous theoretical and numerical model results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107229
StatePublished - Aug 15 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bedforms
  • Critical Shields
  • Defects
  • Hysteresis
  • Ripples

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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