Reflection and tunneling of ocean waves observed at a submarine canyon Academic Article uri icon


  • Ocean surface gravity waves with periods between 20 and 200 s were observed to reflect from a steep-walled submarine canyon. Observations of pressure and velocity on each side of the canyon were decomposed into incident waves arriving from distant sources, waves reflected by the canyon, and waves transmitted across the canyon. The observed reflection is consistent with longwave theory, and distinguishes between cases of normal and oblique angles of incidence. As much as 60% of the energy of waves approaching the canyon normal to its axis was reflected, except for waves twice as long as the canyon width, which were transmitted across with no reflection. Although waves approaching the canyon at oblique angles cannot propagate over the canyon, total reflection was observed only at frequencies higher than 20 mHz, with lower frequency energy partially transmitted across, analogous to the quantum tunneling of a free particle through a classically impenetrable barrier.

publication date

  • 2005