2
Wave number (regular wave)
m
o Mean square of (t); area under the wave spectrum
z Vertical movement of floating unit
H = s
a
Wave height (regular wave)
S
x
() Spectral density function of quantity x
T Wave period (regular wave)
Parameter for irregularity of wave record = width of spectrum; phase
angle
Elevation of water surface
a
Wave amplitude (regular wave)
Wave length (regular wave)
Specific mass of water
Standard deviation
T
2
d 2
tanh
2
gT
2
(2.4)
where d is the water depth.
During one period T a wave crest progresses over one wave length , so that the wave
velocity is c = /T. However, a wave motion is not a continuous transportation of mass of
water as might appear from the propagation of the wave crests. The water particles move in
circular orbits, the centre of which remains in the same position, at least in the theoretical and
artificial concept of a regular wave. This can be easily be verified by watching the movements
of a cork or small raft in waves. It will move both to a fro and up and down in a circular
manner, but on average stay in the same place. The orbital motion of the water particles is for
each point along the x axis delayed by a time interval kx/ = Tx/ = x/c. This causes the
waves crests and troughs to progress as is clearly illustrated in Fig. 2.
The orbital motion decreases exponentially with depth by the factor e
kz
. At the surface z = 0
the radius is equal to the amplitude of the wave
a,
while a depth of z = the radius is
a
e

0.043
a.
This is hardly perceptible and the water is therefore considered to be deep as
long as d > . In deep water the wave is not affected by the bottom, does not "feel" the
bottom. For shallower water the influence is considerable, however. The circular orbits deform
into ellipse with the longer axis horizontal. The short axis is the long axis horizontal. The short
axis is somewhat smaller than the radius of the corresponding circle, the long axis is
considerable larger. The orbital motions at various depths are shown in Figure 3.
One more important thing on regular waves should be mentioned: the energy. A wave
contains potential energy owing to the variable profile and kinetic energy owing to the orbital
motion of the wave particles. The average energy over a wave of the wave particles. The
average energy over a wave length and per unit of horizontal area of the water surface is:
potential E
p
= g
a
2
= 1/16 g H
2
)
)
)
kinetic E
k
= g
a
2
= 1/16 g H
2
)
)
)
total E
t
= g
a
2
= 1/8 g H
2
)
)
) (2.5)
in which is the mass per unit of volume of the water and g the gravitational acceleration; the
product g is the specific weight . The equations (2.5) are easily derived from the definitions
of potential and kinetic energy, integration over the wave length and the water depth and then
averaging over the former. Reference is made to the textbooks.
3. A PHENOMENOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION OF WAVES
At sea the surface profile will always be more or less irregular. A swell originating from a
distant wave field and existing without a corresponding local wind field usually has a fairly
regular appearance. A locally generated wind sea, however, has no resemblance whatsoever
to a regular wave. But even for swell it would be an oversimplification to represent it by a
perfectly regular wave form as discussed in Chapter 2.
In Figure 4 a recording is shown of the instantaneous water elevations at a certain point as a
function of time. It represents a surface profile at the point under consideration over, for
example, a time interval of 30 minutes. A meaningful description is in the first place given by
two averages: the main value, and the rootmeansquare value, r.m.s. (). The mean value
is defined by:
2
T
2
T
dt ) t ( lim T
1
T
(3.1)
where T is the length of the record. It can also be approximated by taking the average of a
large number of discrete value
i
these being the instantaneous water elevations above the
zero level:
N
1 i
i
N
1
(3.2)
It will further be assumed that =0, analogous with the mean value of the regular wave form
in Fig. 1. This amounts to a shift of the zero level to the water level without the waves being
present.
The rootmeansquare value is the average magnitude of the water surface elevation in an
absolute sense. To avoid cancellation of positive and negative values the signal is squared
and average, while finally the root is taken. The definition is fully analogous with the mean
value:
r.m.s () = { }
2
1
2
T
2
T
dt ) t ( lim m
2
T
1
T
o
1
1
1
1
1
]
1
(3.3)
and an approximation from the discrete value
i
is clearly:
r.m.s () =
2
1
N
1 i
2
i o
N
1
m
1
1
]
1
(3.4)
The parameter m
o
introduced above stands for the mean square of the instantaneous water
elevations. For a regular wave r.m.s. (
)
= . . 2
a
Obviously in Fig. 4 one cannot indicate "the amplitude" and "the period" as in Fig. 1b. All
distance between the mean or zero level and a stationary point in the record with a horizontal
tangent are therefore called apparent wave amplitudes and indicated by
a
~
. All crests are
measured in an upward direction, so that both positive (above zero level) and negative crests
(below zero level) can occur. The same applies to troughs, which are measured positively in a
downward direction. For example, in a record of 30 minutes approximately 200 crests and
200 troughs, i.e. 400 values of
a
~
. will be observed. It is clearly desirable to have an
indication of the orders of magnitude involved in one or two parameters instead of 400. This is
indeed usual. The highest crests or deepest trough in the record is the maximum apparent
amplitude, indicated by
max
a
~
; there is, of course, only one maximum. The value is also
given in terms of the maximum wave height of the record
max
H
~
, measured from crests to
preceding or following trough. The other very important parameter is the socalled significant
wave amplitude
3
1
a
~
. It is obtained by taking the top onethird of all the apparent
amplitudes and averaging these. In the example given: sum the 133 highest out of 400 crest
and trough amplitudes and divide by 133. The significant wave height
3
1
H
~
is derived in a
similar way by taking apparent wave heights, crest trough, instead of amplitudes from the
zero level. Obviously there are only roughly 200 wave heights as opposed to 400 amplitudes.
The 67 highest are therefore averaged. The
3
1
H
~
thus found is very nearly equal to twice the
3
1
a
~
.
For a regular wave from the period as measured from zerocrossings, crests, troughs or any
other corresponding set of points is identical. For an irregular signal this is not generally the
case. The reference for the determination of a period must be therefore be clearly defined.
Obvious references are the zerocrossing and the crests of troughs, the apparent period
denoted by
z
T
~
and
c
T
~
respectively. Since between any two adjacent zerocrossings there
must be at least one crests or trough, the total number of crests and troughs together , N
c
,
cannot be smaller than the total number of zero crossing N
z
, up ward and downward
together. The more negative crests and trough occur, the larger N
c
is than N
z
and the more
irregular and appearance of the recording.
The average zerocrossing period is called the mean period and is found from:
z
z mean
N
record of length
2 T
~
T (3.5)
while the average crest period is defined by:
c
c
N
record of length
2 T
~
(3.6)
Owing to the facts N
c
> N
z
, the average crests period is always smaller than the mean period.
An indication of the degree of irregularity in the record is given by the ratio of both periods, or
rather by the parameter defined as:
2
z
c 2
T
~
T
~
1
,
_
(3.7)
For the regular sine wave form . 0 and T
~
T
~
z c
For an extremely irregular wave recording
c
T
~
is considerably smaller than
z
T
~
, so that
2
z c
T
~
/ T
~
,
_
,
_
+ +
n n n n n n an
1 n
t sin y k cos x k sin (4.1)
This represent the sum of an infinite number of regular wave components as given in
equation (2.1), each with its own direction , frequency and amplitude
a
. Moreover the
components are not necessarily in phase at any time, so that a phase difference to some
common references introduced for each component. When looking at the water surface at a
fixed point, for which x = y = 0 can be chosen, the formulation is simplified to:
( )
+
1 n
n n an
t sin (4.2)
Omitting the minus in
n
t simply means that each
n
is in fast replaced by (
n
+ 180), which
again reduced to
n
by adjusting the common reference. Thus (4.2) is supposed to describe
the wave profile at a fixed location as shown in Fig. 5a. Starting from (4.2) various theoretical
relation have been derived for the instantaneous wave elevations
i
, for the apparent
amplitudes of
~
a
and for the probability that a certain
max
a
~
occurs. The question now is
whether these relations correspond with the physical properties actually observed for sea
waves. If so, (4.2) can serve as a mathematical model for the further discussion of wave and
the interaction between waves and structures. It should be realized, however, that any
modelling can only give partial description of reality. A mathematical model is extremely
useful, even indispensable, but always has a limited validity. This should constantly be borne
in mind.
Assume that a wave record has shown in Fig. 5a is available and that the parameters m
o
and
of the previous chapter have been determined. If the actual instantaneous wave elevation
i
above the still water surface are arranged by magnitudes it will be found that there are an
equal number of positive and negative values and that the distribution is a normal or
Gaussian distribution, as shown in Fig. 5b. The standard deviation of the normal distribution
will be equal to the r.m.s. value:
o
m (4.3)
Thus by parameter m
o
the whole distribution function is fixed. It is theoretically known that the
normal distribution is obtained for quantities whish are subject to a large number of mutually
independent causes. In the case under consideration this means that all wave component are
independent, in other words the phase relations
n
in (4.2) are completely arbitrary or random.
The theoretical distribution of the apparent amplitudes
a
~
in the model (4.2) is found to
depend only on the two parameters m
o
and .It is shown graphically in Fig. 5c. if all
a
~
of the
wave recording in Fig. 5a are arranged by magnitudes the distribution will indeed closely
follow the curve of Fig. 5c for the appropriate . Only a few negative amplitudes will occur,
while a peak is found around
a
~
=
o
m . The less irregular the character of wave record,
the smaller is , as discussed in the previous chapter. The distribution function in Fig. 5c then
show that less and less negative crests and troughs will occur. For the limiting case 0 of
a fairly regular wave profile (although not a real regular wave) the distribution starts at the
origin and only covers positive values of
a
~
. This curve of the family is the Rayleigh
distribution . It is fully determined by m
o
alone and is often a sufficiently accurate
representation of the apparent amplitudes for practical applications, especially since one is
usually mostly interested in the larger value of
a
~
.
The one wave record shown in fig. 5a has a certain maximum apparent amplitude
max
a
~
. If a
large number R of wave records were available for identical environmental conditions (such
as wind direction and velocity, duration that the wind is blowing, water depth, exposure etc.)
i.e for the same wave conditions, it would notice that m
o
and of each record were the same,
but that the
max
a
~
values were different . The explanation is simple and will be given in
Chapter 5. Thus it appears that
max
a
~
is not a unique feature and that again only a
distribution of the
max
a
~
value of the R records can be given. The theoretical distribution of
max
a
~
has been obtained from equation (4.2) and it represented in Fig. 5d. Obviously the
maximum occurring depends on the number N of complete cycle investigated (N= N
z
). If
two records taken at the same location, starting at the same time and one lasting for 30 min.
ant the other for 60 min. , the
max
a
~
in the longer record cannot be smaller than that in the
shorter one. But clearly there is a possibility that it is larger. Thus the form and the position of
the distribution function for
max
a
~
depend on the three parameters m
o
, and N. N
determines in the first place the position of the distribution; which increasing N the whole
curve moves upwards. The influence of is small and it is usually sufficiently accurate to use
the distribution for the limiting case = 0. The form of the distribution is jointly determined by
m
o
and N. For the scarce experimental evidence available in this connection, the theoretical
and actually observed distribution in wave measurements also agree.
Through the distribution discussed above and shown in Fig, 5a comprehensive statistical
description of irregular waves at sea is possible my means of only three parameters : m
o
,
and N. It will now be discussed with the aid of an example what all this really means. It will be
assumed that we are considering a storm of approximately 3 hours duration containing 1000
wave cycles (N=1000). It will further be assumed that the relation for = 0 are sufficiently
accurate, so that they are completely determined by the mean square wave elevation m
o
. Let
m
o
be 4 m
2
. The results are summarized in the accompanying Table.
The normal distribution for the instantaneous water surface elevations
i
reveals that 68.26%
of all
i
are between m 2 m and m 2 m
o o
+ + . In other words for 68.26% of
the time, or 122.9 min. of the 180 min. , the water surface is 2 m from the mean level. As read
from the table, for only 4.46% of the time or 8.2 min. the water surface is more than 4 m and
in only 0.26% of the time or 0.5 min. more than 6 m from the mean level. An indication of how
far these values are exceeded is given by the apparent wave amplitudes, which follow the
Rayleigh distribution. Select the top 1/nth part of all amplitudes and average these.
This value is incated by .
~
n / 1
a
The significant wave amplitude discussed in the previous
chapter is one of this family, namely .
~
3 / 1
a
The mean of all wave amplitudes is clearly
.
~
1 / 1
a
For the convenience of the discussion we will assume roughly that the number of
crests, which is equal to the number of troughs, is also a thousand since N = 1000. As shown
in table, m 10 . 5 m 55 . 2
~
o a
10 / 1
. Thus the average of the 100 (10%) highest
amplitudes is 5.10 m. If the Rayleigh distribution in this range were linear, 95 % of all
a
~
would be smaller. But the distribution is exponential and actually 96.2% of all amplitudes are
smaller.
Thus the table shows that 135 apparent wave amplitudes will exceed 4 m, 38 will exceed
5.10m, 19 will exceed 5.62m and only 4 will be higher than 6.68m. How high this 4 waves are,
and especially what the largest amplitudes, cannot be derived from the Rayleigh distribution.
This question will be answered by the distribution of
max
a
~
. The peak of this distribution is at
A
o
m in Fig. 5d; for N = 1000 and = 0 then A = 3.72. This value is called the most
probability maximum, in this case present in 1000 wave crests or 1000 wave troughs.
However, since the distribution is far from symmetric, the area below it is 37% and above it
63% of the total: the most probable maximum has a probability of 63% of being exceeded .
Going more into the tail of the distribution a maximum with, for example, a 10% or a 5%
probability of being exceeded can be determined. The correct values are indicated in the
table. It is seen that a significant wave amplitude of 4.00m, the most probable maximum
wave amplitudes is 7.44 m, but that there is a chance of 10% that is larger than 8.58m and a
chance of 5% it exceeding even 8.88m. This, of course, could be extended to any probability
level. But it is debatable to which point the tails of the theoretical statistical distributions will be
a valid representation of the phenomena in nature. Maximum amplitudes of a magnitude near
to the 5% probability level have, however, actually been measured.
A few further comments should be made. If wave heights rather than wave amplitudes are
studied all values are simply doubled. The theoretical distributions have been derived for
amplitudes and not for heights. However, the theory does not distinguish between crests and
troughs and indications are that heights are very reasonable approximated by twice the
amplitudes. Furthermore, all data given in the table are statistical data. Thus is any particular
case of finite duration studied, certain deviations may surely occur. The multiplication factors
given in column 6 for the maximum apparent amplitude depend on N. They are larger N and
smaller N. The factor for the average of the top 1/n
th
part of all amplitudes depends on , but
if is neglected they are constants. Finally, the percentages of time for the water surface
elevation to be between certain limits are universally valid, regardless of the degree of
irregularity of the sea () and the duration considered (N).
TABLE : EXAMPLE OF WAVE STATISTICS FOR A DURATION OF APPROXIMATELY 3 HRS (N = 1000);
2
o
m 4 m and 0
5. THE WAVE SPECTRUM
From the previous chapter it can been seen that an irregular sea can be thought of as the
sum of a very large number of regular waves. This is shown schematically in Fig. 6. A
description of the elevation of the water surface at a fixed location was found to be:
( )
+
1 n
n n an
t sin (5.1)
This formulations is equivalent to the assumption that all wave components in equation (4.1)
progress in the same direction. In this case the x axis is taken along the direction of
propagation and the term k
n
x is included in the phase difference
n
, which is possible since
they are completely arbitrary. The wave direction is an important parameter for the description
of a wave field over a larger area instead of at one point and for the interaction between
waves and a structure. For reasons of simplifications, however, only the unidirectional case
will be considered here.
Suppose now that the waves during a particular sea state in a particular area are measured at
a number of locations, or that at one fixed location the waves are measured during a number
of periods of, say, 30 minutes, one after the other, and assuming, of course, that the
environmental conditions do not change in the meantime. For sea waves both methods are
equivalent. Suppose next that each record is anlaysed to break it down into its regular wave
components. There are indeed methods for doing this. It will be found that the components
are the same in all cases; only their mutual phase relation are different. Thus for each
n
the
same
an
but a different
n
is found from each record. In other words, the wave components
are typical for a particular sea state due to particular environmental conditions, but their
position, one with respect to the other, and thus the appearance of the sum, is not at all
typical. This explains the statement made in Chapter 4 that statistical averages of a record
and quantities derived therefrom (such as m
o
and ) are fully determined by the
environmental conditions, but that the particular
max
a
~
observed is purely a chance result.
Since the phase angles
n
turn out to be completely arbitrary or random a particular wave
recording is in fact an absolutely unique representation of the existing sea state. At no other
time or location will the record ever occur in precisely the same form. Consequently, sea
waves essentially stochastic in nature; they can only be described adequately in statistical
terms. The random phase model (5.1) exhibits these characteristics correctly.
In the mathematical model (5.1) the frequencies
n
cover in principle the entire frequency
range from = 0 to infinity and are densely distributed within it. These phases
n
are random,
which means that they have a uniform distribution between = 0 and 2. As stated in the
previous paragraph, for each
n
a fixed
an
will be found for a particular sea state. The value
an
are not only fixed, but even form a fairly smooth distribution over
n
. It is usual to give
the distribution in the quadratic form of
an
2
as a function of
n
. The reason is that this
quantity is a direct measure of the total energy contained in each wave component, see
equation (2.5). This is illustrated in Fig. 7a for a restricted number of wave components. The
graph is called a line spectrum. If the number of components is increased, each line
segments the total length of which is equal to the original segment. Thus the line segments
become smaller and smaller. To prevent this it is preferable to use the density of the quantity
an
2
instead of the quantity itself. The density s is defined as haly times the amplitude
squared divided by the frequency interval ( ) : around
n 1 n 1 n
2
1
+
2
an
2
1
n
S (5.2)
The density S
n
remains constant with an increasing number of components. In an actual sea
an infinite number of wave components is presents and S
n
becomes a continuous function of
see Fig. 7b, defined by:
( )
2
a
d
d
2
1
2
1
2
1
d S
(5.3)
The function is called the wave ( )
+
(5.4)
Thus m
o
is measure of the total amount of energy contained in an irregular sea. From
equations (5.3) and (5.4) it is obvious that m
o
is equal to the area under the wave spectrum:
d ) ( S m
o
o
(5.5)
The parameter indicating the irregularity of the wave record and introduced by equation
(3.7) is also related to the wave spectrum. It can be shown that:
4 o
2
2 4 o 2
m m
m m m
(5.6)
where m
n
is the n
th
moment of the spectrum defined by:
d ) ( S m
n
o
n
(5.7)
is usually called the width of the spectrum.
It was assumed in the above that the environmental conditions were constant and already
existed for some time. Consequently the sea is fully developed and stationary under
prevailing meteorological conditions. There is equilibrium between the energy input by the
wind and the energy lost in the wave motion itself and by radiating energy in the form of
waves propagating outside the wind field area. So as long as the sea is stationary the wave
spectrum and the statistical relations discussed form a valid and comprehensive description
of the sea. The total amount of energy (m
o
) and its distribution ( ) ) ( S
,
_
+
,
_
+ +
1 n
n
*
n an
1 n
n z n n an
t sin z t sin z z (6.2)
which is similar to the wave ,model (5.1). Everything said in Chapter 3, 4 and 5 can be
repeated if "wave" is replaced by the appropriate quantity, in this case "vertical motion".
In accordance with equation (5.3) a vertical motion spectrum can be defined by:
2
a
2
1
d
d
z
z d ) ( S
2
1
2
1
+
(6.3)
Obviously the following relation exists between the motion spectrum and the wave spectrum:
) ( S ) (
z
) ( S
2
a
a
z
'
(6.4)
This relation is actually used in carrying out calculations for the behaviour in irregular waves.
The ratio z/
a
a
is the amplitude ratio or transfer function for the vertical movement. Thus an
analysis of the behaviour of a marine structure in irregular waves is reduced to the
determination of the transfer function for the quantity under considerayion, either by
calculations or by experiments in a series of regular waves of various frequencies. It will be
clear that the transfer function is influenced by a number of circumstances, such as water
depth, dimensions of the structure and wave direction.
Equation (6.4) can also be reserved:
) ( S
) ( S
) (
z
z
a
a
(6.5)
This allows for the analysis of experiments in irregular waves or fullscale measurements at
sea. If the vertical motion spectrum and the wave spectrum are measured simultaneously, the
transfer function of the vertical motion can be obtained from the quotient. It can next be
compared with calculations to check theoretical approach to the problem. In Fig. 8 an
example for the semisubmersible drilling unit STAFLO of Shell U.K. Ltd. Is shown. The
measurements were performed during operations in the North Sea. Of course, the procedure
described can be applied to any quantity other than vertical motion, such as angular motions,
wave loads, dynamic stresses produced by waves, etc.
In the foregoing wave action and the result of the wave action on structures was discussed.
This discussion covers only the variable part of motions, forces, stresses, etc., as a result of
wave action. The mean level of the quantities or variations due to other circumstances must
be separated from the wave action and dealt with independently; see also the introduction.
This, of course, presumes that a linear treatment of the problem studied is a reasonable
approximation of reality. In the opinion of the author this is true for the great majority of
engineering problems in offshore operations.
7. REFERENCES
There is a great deal of literature available on the subject. Usually, however, it is of a rather
specialized nature and not very accessible. For a good and clear discussion of the resolution
of signals into their components and spectral analysis of stochastic signals, Dutch readers
may be referred to Chapters 15 and 16 of "Regeltechniek" by J.C. Cool, F.J. Schijff and T.J.
Viersma, published by Agon Elsevier in 1969.
A mathematical and more detailed treatment of wave action is found in the following papers:
Cartwright, D.E. and M.S. LonguetHiggins, "The statistical distribution of the maxima of a
random function", Proc. Royal Society of London, A, Vol. 237, 1956.
LonguetHiggins, M.S., "On the statistical distribution of the heights of sea waves", J. of
Marine Research, Vol. XI, No. 3. 1952.
Cartwright, D.E., "On estimating the mean energy of sea waves from the highest waves in a
record", Proc. Royal Soc. of London, A, Vol. 247, 1958.
The analysis of marine structures in waves is discussed more elaborately in two other papers
by the author:
"The role of model tests and their correlation with fullscale observations", Proc. Symposium
on Offshore Hydrodynamics, Wageningen, 25th26th August 1971.
"De analyse van maritieme constructies", lecture delivered at the Vreedenburgh Day of the
Koninklijk Instituut van Ingenieurs, Delft, November 1971 and to be published in "De
Ingenieur".
FIG. 1  REGULAR WAVES
FIG.2  ORBITAL MOTION AND WAVE PROPAGATION
FIG.3  ORBITAL MOTION AND WATER DEPTH
FIG.4  EXAMPLE OF A WAVE RECORDING WITH NOMENCLATURE
FIG.5  STATISTICAL DISTRIBUTION OF VARIOUS WAVE QUANTITIES
FIG.6  SUMMATION OF REGULAR WAVE COMPONENTS
FIG.7  THE DISTRIBUTION OF WAVE ENERGY OVER THE WAVE COMPONENTS
FIG.8  COMPARISON BETWEEN CALCULATIONS AND FULL SCALE MEASUREMENTS FOR
THE VERTICAL MOTION OF THE ROTARY TABLE OF THE SEMISUBMERSIBLE
DRILLING UNIT STAFLO
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