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Applied Mathematical Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

www.elsevier.nl/locate/apm

Numerical modelling of multi-directional irregular waves


through breakwaters
Y.S. Li

a,*

, S.-X. Liu a, Y.-X. Yu b, G.-Z. Lai

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong,
People's Republic of China
State Key Laboratory of Coastal and Oshore Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116024,
People's Republic of China
Received 3 July 1998; received in revised form 1 January 1999; accepted 22 December 1999

Abstract
A numerical model based on the time domain solution of the Boussinesq equations using the nite element method is
described in this paper. The propagation of multi-directional irregular waves in water of varying depth can be simulated
using the present model and there are no limitations on the form of incident waves. The validity of the model had been
demonstrated by Li et al. (cf. Y.S. Li et al., Numerical modelling of Boussinesq equations by nite element method,
Coastal Engineering 37 (1999) 97122) using several test cases where the incident wave is sinusoidal. In this paper, the
propagation of multi-directional irregular wave over an elliptical shoal was rst modelled to demonstrate the versatility
of the nite element method. The multi-directional irregular wave diraction around a semi-innite breakwater and
through a breakwater gap is then simulated to further validate the numerical model. Good agreements are observed
between the numerical and experimental results. The results also show that the directional spreading of the incident
waves has a signicant eect on the wave diraction and leads to a distinct diraction contour compared with that of
unidirectional waves. The computed results show that the model can be applied to solve practical engineering problems
involving multi-directional irregular waves. 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Boussinesq equations; Multi-directional irregular waves; Breakwaters

1. Introduction
In the design of harbours, breakwaters are generally constructed to protect the harbour from
the direct attack of waves. Their layouts are mainly determined by the transformation of waves
inside harbours. Wave diractions around breakwater tips transport wave energy into the protected zones of harbours and hence their predictions are an essential step in the planning and
evaluation process of breakwaters. A considerable amount of investigations has been made to
predict and study the behaviour of wave propagation in intermediate and shallow water. One part
of this eort is to develop physical model testing techniques in laboratories to investigate the
properties of wave transformation. In the early years, experimental study were mostly concerned
with regular waves. Suk and Dalrymple [1] carried out small scale model tests for single oshore
*

Corresponding author. Tel.: +852-2766-6069; fax: +852-2334-6389.

0307-904X/00/$ - see front matter 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 3 0 7 - 9 0 4 X ( 0 0 ) 0 0 0 0 3 - 2

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

breakwaters with various breakwater lengths and oshore distances and for multiple oshore
breakwaters with various gap spacings to examine the eects of their geometric parameters on the
morphological change in their vicinity using a spiral wavemaker in a circular wave basin. Pos and
Kilner [2] performed wave diraction experiments with dierent breakwater gap congurations
and compared their experimental results with the corresponding analytical diraction diagrams
given in the Shore Protection Manual [3]. However, sea waves are in fact multi-directional irregular waves, with the wave energy distributed over a wide range of frequencies and directions.
The characteristics of refraction and diraction are sensitive to the shape of the wave spectra,
especially that of the directional spreading functions. With the development of multi-directional
irregular wave generators and their associated data processing, control and analytical procedures,
researchers have conducted several model tests on multi-directional irregular waves. Briggs et al.
[4] conducted experiments on wave diraction around a semi-innite breakwater using a directional spectral wave generator, with the principal wave direction normal to the breakwater. More
recently, Yu et al. [5] conducted systematic physical model tests to study the wave diraction and
refraction of multi-directional irregular waves through a breakwater gap. All the test results
showed that the wave directional spreading has a signicant eect on wave diraction and
refraction.
In addition to experimental studies, numerical simulation is a powerful tool to estimate wave
characteristics in harbours. The basic equations used in numerical modelling can be classied into
two types, the mild-slope equation and Boussinesq-type equations. The use of Boussinesq-type
equations gives a more complete representation of the physics, but requires a much larger
computing eort.
The mild-slope equation [6] provides a steady-state solution for linear regular waves in a wide
range of water depths. The equation was typically solved using the nite element method [7,8].
Irregular wave results can be estimated by linear superposition of regular wave solutions. Models
based on the mild-slope equation are straightforward and eective in the solution of engineering
problems. However, connement to linear waves limits its applications.
Compared with the mild-slope equation, the Boussinesq-type equations include also time dependence, weak non-linearity and dispersion and have been found to give a relatively more
accurate description of wave transformation in shallow coastal regions. The propagation of multidirectional irregular waves in harbours can be modelled directly. Much attention has been paid to
these equations in recent years. Classical Boussinesq equations are applicable only in very shallow
water, but several modications have been made to them to extend their range of applications to
greater water depths [912]. A detailed review of wave transformation over uneven bottoms was
recently given by Dingemans [13].
Many numerical models based on Boussinesq equations were developed using nite dierence
method [1416]. The nite dierence method is easy to use, but is not versatile enough to deal with
irregular boundaries which occur in many coastal engineering problems. In contrast to the nite
dierence method, the nite element method, though requires more programming eorts, can
handle geometrically complex domains and has been applied broadly in coastal engineering.
Another advantage of the nite element method is the possibility to minimize the number of grid
points by using only a ne resolution in the areas of interest. Based on the Boussinesq-type
equations given by Beji and Nadaoka [12], a numerical model using the nite element method has
been developed and tested using test cases where the incident waves are sinusoidal by the authors
[17]. In this paper, the nite element model is rst briey described and applied to model the
propagation of multi-directional irregular waves over an elliptical shoal to demonstrate its
versatility. The diraction of regular, unidirectional irregular and multi-directional irregular
wave around a semi-innite breakwater and through a breakwater gap is then simulated. No

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

553

restrictions are placed on the form of the incident waves. The numerical solutions compared
favourably with experimental data. The results also show that the wave directional spreading has
a signicant eect on wave diraction.
2. Governing equations
The improved Boussinesq equations in terms of the depth-averaged velocity derived by Beji
and Nadaoka [12] are used.
gt r  h gu 0;
h
gh
ut u  ru grg 1 b rr  hut b rr  hrg
2
2
h2
gh2  2 
r rg ;
1 b rr  ut b
6
6

where u u; v is the two-dimensional depth-averaged velocity vector, g is the water surface


elevation, h hx; y is the water depth as measured from the still water level, g is the gravitational acceleration. The subscript t denotes partial dierentiation with respect to time. b is a
constant. Comparing the dispersion of the linearized equations(1) and (2) with the expansion of
the linear theory dispersion relation, b 1=5 is the best selection [12].
3. Numerical model
3.1. Finite element solution
Grouping the time derivatives together, Eqs. (1) and (2) can be rewritten as follows in scalar
quantity:
gt

o
o
Hu Hv 0;
ox
oy





ou
ou
og bgh o ohc ohd
bgh2 o2 c o2 d

rt u v g

0;
ox
oy
ox
2 ox ox
oy
ox2 oxoy
6





ov
ov
og bgh o ohc ohd
bgh2 o2 c
o2 d
0;

qt u v g
ox
oy
oy
2 oy
ox
oy
oxoy oy 2
6





h o ohu ohv
h2 o2 u
o2 v
u b1

b1
r;

2 ox
ox
oy
6 ox2 oxoy





h o ohu ohv
h2 o2 u o2 v

b1
2 q;
2 oy
ox
oy
6 oxoy oy

v b1

in which b1 1 b; H h g; c og=ox and d og=oy. Applying the standard Galerkin


method and after some manipulation, the following equations in matrix form from Eqs. (3)(5)
can be obtained:

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

n o
M f_ fEg;

where f g; r or q. M is the `mass' matrix and E is a known vector calculated from the known
values of g, u, v, c and d. Eqs. (6) and (7) are coupled and give the following equations:
Afug W fvg fF g;

X fug Bfvg fGg;

10

where A; B; W and X are coecient matrices and fF g and fGg are calculated from the
known values of r and q, respectively.
The variable f is discretized at t nDt and Eq. (8) is solved using the AdamsBashforth
Moulton predictorcorrector method, i.e.,
i
n on1
Dt h
23fEgn 16fEgn1 5fEgn2 ;
M f f gn
11
M f~
12


Dt n ~on1
n1
n
n
n1
n2
M f f g M f f g
9 E
19fEg 5f Eg fEg
;
12
24
where the over tilde means the predicted values. The values on the right-hand side are known
from calculations at previous time steps or the predicting step. The resulting set of linear algebraic
equations are solved by an iteration method [17].
In Eqs. (9) and (10), because u and v are coupled, the equations are solved by the following
iteration procedure starting with the previous values of v at time level n 1 until convergence is
achieved:
v ! Eq: 9 ! u ! Eq: 10 ! v ! Eq: 9 ! u !   

13

The global equations in each iteration are solved using the bi-conjugate gradient (BICG) method
[18] because the coecient matrices are asymmetric.
In this model, linear quadrilateral elements are used. Since the rst-order spatial derivatives are
not continuous across adjacent elements, the nodal values of the rst spatial derivatives of the
surface elevation g at a particular node are determined from the weighted (the area of the element)
average of the derivatives in the elements surrounding the node. This corresponds to the central
dierence approximation of the rst derivative of g if rectangular elements are used. Details of the
procedure can be found in Li et al. [17].
To ensure stability of the numerical scheme, the following criterion, which is the well-known
CFL condition, must be satised:
cw

Dt
6 1;
Dlmin

14a

where cw is the wave velocity and Dlmin is the minimum length of the sides of the nite elements.
To ensure sucient accuracy of the computed results, the following widely accepted criterion
for wave simulation is applicable:
L
P 8  10;
Dlmax

14b

where L is the local wavelength and Dlmax is the maximum length of the sides of the nite
elements. More than 10 grid points should be used per wavelength for highly non-linear waves
because of the generation of higher harmonics.

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

555

3.2. Boundary conditions


Corresponding to the experimental set-up given below, three kinds of boundary conditions are
used in the following computation.
3.2.1. Incident wave boundaries
If the incident wave elevation gI is given, we can use linear theory to obtain the incident wave
velocities as:
uI

x
g cos h;
kh I

vI

x
g sin h;
kh I

15

where h is the wave propagation direction relative to the x-axis, x the wave circular frequency, k
the wave number and h is the water depth.
Multi-directional irregular sea states can be considered a zero mean, ergodic, Gaussian process.
The water surface elevation can be modelled as a superposition of regular waves. There are several
directional wave models. In this paper, the improved single direction per frequency model [19] was
used. i.e.,
gI x; y; t

Mf Nh
X
X



amj cos kmj x cos hj y sinhj 2pfmj t emj ;

16

m1 j1

where
1
fmj f^m Df j 1 RANmj Df =Nh ;
2
q
^ f^m ; hj Df Dh;
amj 2S
Df fH fL =Mf ;

Dh hmax hmin =Nh ;

17
18
19

f^m is the centre frequency in the mth frequency band, fH ; fL and hmax ; hmin are the ranges of
frequency and direction of the incident directional wave spectrum, respectively, Mf and Nh are the
numbers of frequency bands and directional bands in the discretized directional spectrum, emj the
random wave phase which is distributed uniformly in (0, 2p), and RANmj is a random number in
the range (0, 1) which is introduced to impart a random component to fmj . The directional wave
^ ; h can be expressed as the product of the frequency spectrum S(f) and directional
spectrum Sf
spreading function G(f,h), i.e.,
^ ; h Sf Gf ; h:
Sf

20

The directional spreading function Gf ; h satises the following two conditions:


Z
Sf
Z

hmax

hmin

hmax
hmin

^ ; h dh;
Sf

Gf ; h dh 1:

21a
21b

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

In this paper, the Mitsuyasu-type spreading function [20] is used, i.e.,




2s h h0
;
22
Gf ; h G0 cos
2
where h0 is the principal wave direction and G0 is a constant introduced to satisfy the condition
(21b).
Combining Eqs. (15) and (16), the incident velocities uI x; y; t and vI x; y; t can be obtained
using the superposition method.
3.2.2. Fully reective boundaries
For a fully reective vertical boundary, the normal velocity must be zero, i.e.,
unx vny 0

or

un0

23

in which n is the outward unit normal vector of the reective boundary and nx and ny are the two
components of n along the two spatial coordinates, respectively.
The boundary integrals are taken as zero at fully reective boundaries. In addition to Eq. (23),
og=on 0 is also imposed.
3.2.3. Absorbing boundaries
The wave energy arriving at these boundaries from within the uid domain must be absorbed
perfectly. The most commonly used method is the Sommerfeld radiation condition. But in actual
computations, especially for irregular waves, it is dicult to know the phase speeds exactly and
hence the boundary can still reect some wave energy.
To eliminate the boundary reections, a `sponge' layer proposed by Larsen and Dancy [21] is
placed in front of the absorbing boundaries to absorb the incoming wave energy. On the sponge
layer, the surface elevation g and the horizontal velocities u; v are divided by lx; y after each
time step. The factor lx; y takes the following form after extending the one-dimensional form
[21] to two dimensions:
(



exp 2d=Dd 2ds =Dd lna ; 0 6 d 6 ds ;
24
lx; y
1;
ds < d
in which d is the distance between the point on the `sponge' layer and the boundary, Dd is the
typical dimension of the elements, ds is the sponge layer width, usually equal to one or two
wavelengths and a is a constant specied as 4 in this paper.
4. Numerical modelling of wave refraction and diraction
4.1. Irregular wave propagation over elliptical shoal
The advantage of the present model in handling geometrically complex domain has been
demonstrated by the simulation of the wave run up around a circular cylinder for which the nite
dierence method is dicult to be applied [17]. The exibility of the nite element method to
minimize the number of grid points by using only a ne resolution in the area of interest is
demonstrated in this section by modelling the propagation of multi-directional irregular waves
over an elliptical shoal.
The shoal experiments were reported by Briggs [22] and Vincent and Briggs [23]. The elliptical
shoal was patterned after Berkho et al. [24] with a major radius of 3.96 m, minor radius of 3.05 m,
and a maximum height of 30.48 cm at the centre. The shoal boundary is an ellipse dened by

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

X0
3:05

2

Y0
3:96

557

2
1;

25

where X 0 and Y 0 are localized coordinates centered on the shoal denoting minor and major axes,
respectively. The water depth is
8
"
 0 2  0 2 #1=2
>
<
X
Y
; in the shoal;
h 0:9144 0:7620 1 3:81 4:95
26
>
:
0:4572;
elsewhere:
In the experiments of Vincent and Briggs [23], waves were generated by a directional spectral wave
generator. A 6.10 m wide by 15.24 m long measurement area was centrally located in front of the
wave generator. The wave heights along the marked sections 19 (see Fig. 1) were recorded. The
centre of the shoal was located at coordinates x 6:10 m and y 13:72 m.
The computational domain is 20 m 20 m with a total of 14 400 nite elements as shown in
Fig. 2. A ner grid was used in the shoal region because of the reduction in wavelength with
decreasing water depth. To avoid an excessive distortion of the grid mesh, the grid lines did not
conform completely with the elliptical boundary of the shoal. If a uniform ne grid with a grid
size similar to that at the centre of the shoal is used in the whole computational domain, the
computer time will be increased by more than 100%.
The modied JONSWAP spectrum is used in the present numerical studies instead of the
TMA-shallow water spectral form selected by Vincent and Briggs [23], because of equivalence,
i.e.,
h
i
2
2
2
27
Tp4 f 5 exp 1:25Tp f 4 c exp Tp f 1 =2r ;
Sf bJ H1=3
where
bJ

0:062381:094 0:01915 lnc


0:230 0:0336c 0:1851 c1

Fig. 1. Computation domain and the locations of elliptical shoal and measurement sections.

28

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

Fig. 2. The nite element grid.


r

0:07;
0:09;

f 6 fp ;
f > fp :

29

The Mitsuyasu-type directional spreading function Gf ; h is used (Eq. (22)) instead of the
wrapped normal spreading function Df ; h used by Vincent and Briggs [23]. The directional
spreading parameter s is also taken as independent of frequency. By comparing Gf ; h with the
wrapped normal spreading function Df ; h and after minimizing the following error:
Z hmax
2
Error
Gf ; h Df ; h dh;
30
hmin

one can get the relationship between the directional spreading parameter s and the circular
standard deviation rm which is used to represent the directional spreading for the wrapped normal
spreading function Df ; h. It is shown in Fig. 3(a) that rm 10 and 30 used by Vincent and
Briggs [23] in their experiments are equivalent to s 65 and 7, respectively. Fig. 3(b) is the
comparison of the two directional spreading functions.
In the numerical computation, the time interval Dt 0:05s and the time duration is 4096 time
steps. The incident signicant wave height HI is 0.0775 m and the peak wave period Tp is 1.35 s.

Fig. 3. Comparison of Mitsuyasu-type directional spreading function with wrapped normal spreading function: (a) s vs

rm ; (b) comparison of directional spreading.

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

559

Fig. 4. Comparison of numerical and experimental results for broad directional waves.

The JONSWAP spectrum of c 2 and s 7 (broad directional spreading) was simulated. The
numbers of frequency bands and directional bands used were 80 and 36, respectively. The experimental and numerical results are compared in Fig. 4. It can be seen that the computed wave
heights H in general agree well with the experimental data. For uni-directional waves, the wave
height behind the shoal would be amplied by the change of water depth. However, a broad
directional spreading function evens up the wave height distribution and the eect of wave
refraction is greatly diminished.
4.2. Wave diraction around semi-innite breakwater
4.2.1. Computational domain and wave condition
The classical straight, semi-innite breakwater in uniform water depth oers a simple but instructive test conguration. This case is simulated in this paper with incident regular and multidirectional irregular waves which were physically investigated by Briggs et al. [4]. Fig. 5 is the
computational domain which is basically identical to the experimental area [4]. The breakwater is
0.15 m thick. To conform with the experimental situation, the incident wave boundary is parallel
to and located 5 m in front of the breakwater. On this boundary, values of g, u and v are specied.
The two boundaries adjacent to the incident boundary are taken as fully reective boundaries in
order to expand the eective area for multi-directional waves [25]. Except for the boundary
behind the breakwater, all the boundaries are taken as absorbing boundaries. The diraction

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

Fig. 5. The computational domain and the wave gage array: (a) the layout of computational domain; (b) wave gage

array at points P1, P2, P3 and P4 (R @ 0.6 m).

coecient along the three transects a 30 ; 60 and 90 shown in Fig. 5 is computed to match
the physical model test data [4]. In the computations, the computed water surface elevation time
series at points P1P4 were used to calculate the directional spectra by the Bayesian approach
[26]. Table 1 lists the wave parameters. The wave period T represents the peak period (Tp ) for
irregular waves. The modied JONSWAP spectrum and the Mitsuyasu-type spreading function
are again used in the present numerical studies instead of the TMA-shallow water spectral form
selected by Briggs et al. [4], as in Section 4.1.
In the numerical computation, the time interval Dt 0:05 s. The time durations are t 40 s for
regular waves and 150 s for multi-directional irregular waves. A total of 12 352 linear quadrilateral elements are used in the computation (12 642 nodes). After computation, the diraction
coecients Kd are calculated using the following equations:
Kd

Hi
regular waves
HI

or Kd

Hi;1=3
irregular waves;
HI;1=3

31

where Hi and HI are the diraction wave height and the incident wave height, respectively. For
irregular waves, the signicant wave height H1=3 is used.
Table 1

Wave parameters for numerical studies


Case

Wave type

H or H1=3 (m)

s(rm )

M1
M4
N1
N2
B1
B2

Regular
Regular
Multi-directional
Multi-directional
Multi-directional
Multi-directional

0.0550
0.0775
0.0775
0.0775
0.0775
0.0775

65 (10 )
65 (10 )
7 (30 )
7 (30 )

2
20
2
20

T 1:30 s, main direction h0 0 , water depth h 0:4 m, and wave length L 2:25 m.

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

561

4.2.2. Numerical results and discussion


Fig. 6 gives the comparison of the numerical results and experimental data. In the gures,
r0 r=L is the normalized distance from the breakwater tip by the wavelength. The gures show

Fig. 6. Comparison of computed and experimental diraction coecient Kd .

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

Fig. 6. Continued.

that the numerical results are basically identical to experimental ones for a 30 and 60 transects. It is reasonable that the dierence between the numerical and experimental results for
a 90 transect is a little bigger because of the high gradients in wave height between the unsheltered and the sheltered region in the lee of the breakwater. The agreements for the narrow
directional spreading waves are better than those for the broad directional spreading waves. This
is because for broad directional spreading waves, the dierence between input directional
spreading properties for experimental and numerical studies is bigger due to the constraint of the
multi-directional irregular wave generating technique. In theory, constrained by the width of the
segments of multi-directional wave generators, it is dicult to exactly generate the very wide angle
incident waves [25].
Figs. 7 and 8 are the examples of the eects of wave diraction on frequency spectra and
directional spreading, respectively. In the gures, the input refers to that at the incident boundary.
Fig. 7 shows that the shape of the frequency spectra at points P1P4 is similar to each other, but a
little wider than that of the input. As expected, the spectral density at P1 is the highest and the
energy of the spectra increases from P2P4. It is shown in Fig. 8 that the directional spreading
function at P1 is very close to that of the input. The main direction of the wave propagation at
dierent points changes apparently because of wave diraction. For the narrow directional
spreading waves, the directional spreading function shows little changes, but for wider directional
spreading waves, the directional spreading function becomes relatively narrower because of wave
diraction.
Fig. 9 gives examples of the wave directional spectra at dierent points. The eects of the
wave diraction on the directional spectra are recognizable from the gures in spite of the
relatively short time duration for multi-directional wave spectral analysis. Fig.10 shows the
perspective views of the wave surface at an instant of time, t 30 s for regular waves and
t 100 s for irregular waves. The gures also show the eect of the directional spreading on

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

563

Fig. 7. Eects of wave diraction on frequency spectra: (a) case: N1; (b) case: B2.

Fig. 8. Eects of wave diraction on wave directional spreading: (a) case: N1; (b) case: B2.

wave diraction. The wider the directional spreading, the bigger the wave height in the sheltered
area.
It can be seen by comparing all the results that the directional spreading is more important
than the shape of the frequency spectrum in determining the wave energy in the lee of a breakwater. To show the eects of directional spreading on the wave diraction, Fig. 11 gives the
variations of the wave diraction coecients Kd at points r 1, 2 and 3 m on the transects
a 30 ; 60 and 90 with the directional spreading parameter s. In the gures, the relative difference of Kd is dened as follows:
Relative difference of Kd

Kd;s Kd;s100
 100;
Kd;s100

32

where Kd;s and Kd;s100 are the diraction coecient Kd with dierent s values and s 100,
respectively. The gures show that on the a 30 and 60 transects, the diraction coecients
Kd decreases with increasing values of the directional spreading parameter s until s 40. On
transect a 90 , the eect of the directional spreading on the wave diraction is comparatively
smaller.

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

Fig. 9. The directional spectra at P1P4 for cases: N1 and B2.

Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

565

Fig. 10. Perspective views of wave surface around semi-innite breakwater: (a) case: M1 (t 30 s); (b) case: N1 (t 150 s);

(c) case: B1 (t 150 s).

4.3. Wave diraction through a breakwater gap


4.3.1. General description of computation conditions
The wave diraction through a breakwater gap oers another instructive test case for numerical models. Recently, Yu et al. [5] carried out laboratory experiments on wave propagation
through a breakwater gap with a multi-directional irregular wave generator and studied the
characteristics of wave diraction and refraction. The presented experimental results oer another
excellent data set to validate the numerical model.
The regular wave diraction through a breakwater gap had been simulated using the numerical
model and the results were compared with the experimental data [17]. The two results are in good
agreement. In this paper, numerical modelling is focused on multi-directional irregular waves
which need a long computation time. This is critical to the application of numerical models to
simulate real situations. Fig. 12 is the computational domain. Similar to the semi-innite
breakwater case, the breakwater of thickness 0.35 m was parallel to and located 4 m in front of the

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

Fig. 11. Relative dierences of diraction coecient Kd versus s: (a) a 30 ; (b) a 60 ; (c) a 90 .

wavemaker to conform with the experimental situation. The gap in the centre was formed by two
semi-circular tips and the gap width B 3.92 or 7.85 m in the physical model tests. For B 3.92
and 7.85 m, 17 985 and 18 069 four-node elements, corresponding to 17 584 and 17 696 nodes,
respectively, were used. The semi-circular breakwater tip was approximated by four line segments
as shown in Fig. 13.
In the computation, the incident wave height or signicant height H0 0.05 m, the wave period
or peak period T 1:20 s. The main wave direction h0 90 or 45 . For irregular waves, the
JONSWAP spectrum of c 4; s 1 (uni-directional waves) and s 19 were simulated. The
constant water depth h 0:4 m. The time step Dt 0:05 s and the total time of computation is
40 s for regular waves and 150 s for irregular waves. After the calculation, the computed wave
diraction coecients are also calculated by Eq. (31).

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Fig. 12. The computational domain for the wave diraction through a breakwater gap.

Fig. 13. Finite elements near the breakwater tip.

4.3.2. Numerical results and discussion


Fig. 14 gives the numerical solutions and experimental results for the case of B 3.92 m
B=L 2 in which the wavelength L corresponds to the peak period for irregular waves. Fig. 15
gives the cross-section distribution of the diraction coecients at Y =L 3. Good agreement is
generally observed between the numerical and experimental results. But the numerical model
seems to underpredict the wave heights in most cases. One reason may be the loss of high
frequency wave energy associated with truncation errors in the numerical model. Also, the difference in the physical characteristics of the absorbing layers between the numerical and experimental cases in front of the breakwater has a signicant eect on the wave propagation into the
harbour, especially for oblique incident waves. In addition, the semi-circular breakwater tips are
approximated by four segments in the numerical modelling. The slight dierence between the
shapes of the breakwater tip used in the numerical calculation and experimental study may lead to
dierences of waves reected by the breakwater tip, and hence, the discrepancy between the two
results. Moreover, it should be noted that in the computation, the grid number in one mean
wavelength is about 1315. The higher frequency components are represented by fewer grid
points, resulting in some numerical dissipation of wave energy.
Figs. 16 and 17 are the comparison of the numerical results with the experimental data for
B 7.85 m B=L 4. The agreement between the numerical and experimental results seems
better than that for B 3.92 m B=L 2 given above. This is expected because the eect of the
sponge layer on the wave propagation is smaller due to the wider entrance for the same incident
waves.

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Fig. 14. Comparison of the computed and experimental diraction coecient contour for B 3.92 m (B=L 2, solid
line: numerical, dashed line: experimental): (a) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 90 ); (b) multi-directional
irregular waves (s 19; h0 90 ); (c) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 45 ); (d) multi-directional irregular
waves (s 19; h0 45 ).

Figs. 18 and 19 give the perspectives of the wave surface at an instant of time t 100 s for the
cases of B 3.92 and 7.85 m, respectively. The eect of the reection by the breakwater tip and
the boundaries on the waves in front of the breakwater and inside the harbour can be observed.
Especially, the incident boundary can not absorb the outgoing waves and reects the wave into
the harbour area again. The outgoing wave is about 4% of the incident wave near the incident
boundary for normally incident regular wave. A better way to deal with this kind of boundary has
yet to be devised.
It can also be observed from Figs. 14 and 16 that the directional spreading of wave energy leads
to signicantly dierent diraction patterns behind the breakwater. To show the eects of the
wave directional spreading on the wave diraction, Fig. 20 gives the comparison of the diraction
coecient distribution at the cross-section Y =L 3 for dierent types of waves. In the gures, the
results of regular waves are also given for comparison. The gures show that the results of the
regular waves are very close to those of the unidirectional irregular waves. However, the wave
heights for multi-directional waves are larger in the sheltered areas behind the breakwater but
smaller along the main direction of the waves. Directional spreading evens out the wave heights
behind the breakwater. Similar results were also obtained by Goda et al. [27], from the superposition of the solutions of linear waves and Yu et al. [5] from the experimental studies. All the
computed results illustrate that the numerical model can predict the general properties of wave
propagation into a harbour through a breakwater gap and can be applied to real engineering
problems.

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569

Fig. 15. Comparison of the computed and experimental diraction coecient distribution at section Y =L 3 for
B=L 2 B 3:92 m (a) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 90 ); (b) multi-directional irregular waves
(s 19; h0 90 ); (c) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 45 ); (d) multi-directional irregular waves
(s 19; h0 45 ).

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Fig. 16. Comparison of the computed and experimental diraction coecient contour for B 7.85 m (B=L 4, solid
line: numerical, dashed line: experimental): (a) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 90 ); (b) multi-directional
irregular waves (s 19; h0 90 ); (c) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 45 ); (d) multi-directional irregular
waves (s 19; h0 45 ).

5. Conclusions
In this paper, the nite element model with time dependence based on the Boussinesq equations
is described. The exibility of the present model to minimize the number of grid points by using
only a ne resolution in the area of interest is rst demonstrated by modelling the propagation of
multi-directional irregular waves over an elliptical shoal. The model is then used to simulate the
multi-directional irregular wave diraction around a semi-innite breakwater and through a
breakwater gap. The numerical results are compared with experimental data and good agreements
are observed between them. Because no limitations are placed on the form of incident waves,
especially the incident direction, the model can be used for any type of waves. But it should be
noted that in the present model, only the fully reective and absorbing boundaries are considered.
In real situations, partially reective boundaries, for example, porous breakwaters, are sometimes
met. In addition, the incident boundary is not treated as an absorbing boundary. The outgoing
waves are reected back from the boundary to the computed area again and hence, aect to a slight
extent the interested waves, especially for the simulation of irregular waves due to the required long
computation time. These kinds of boundaries should be further investigated to improve the model.
The numerical results show that the wave directional spreading has a bigger eect than the
shape of the frequency spectrum on wave diraction. Directional spreading evens out the wave
heights behind the breakwater. The wave heights of multi-directional waves are larger in the
sheltered areas behind the breakwater compared with those of unidirectional irregular waves. In
general, it has been shown that the numerical model can be applied to solve practical engineering
problems involving multi-directional irregular waves.

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571

Fig. 17. Comparison of the computed and experimental diraction coecient distribution at section Y =L 3 for
B=L 4 (B 7:85 m): (a) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 90 ); (b) multi-directional irregular waves
(s 19; h0 90 ); (c) uni-directional irregular waves (s 1; h0 45 ); (d) multi-directional irregular waves
(s 19; h0 45 ).

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Fig. 18. Perspectives of wave surface at an instant of time t 100 s (B 3.92 m): (a) uni-directional irregular waves

(h0 90 ); (b) multi-directional irregular waves (h0 90 ); (c) uni-directional irregular waves (h0 45 ); (d) multidirectional irregular waves (h0 45 ).

Fig. 19. Perspectives of wave surface at an instant of time t 100 s (B 7.85 m): (a) uni-directional irregular waves

(h0 90 ); (b) multi-directional irregular waves (h0 90 ); (c) uni-directional irregular waves (h0 45 ); (d) multidirectional irregular waves (h0 45 ).

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573

Fig. 20. Diraction coecient distribution at section Y =L 3 for dierent waves: (a) B 3:92 m; B=L 2; h0 90 ;

(b) B 3:92 m; B=L 2; h0 45 ; (c) B 7:85 m; B=L 4; h0 90 ; (d) B 7:85 m; B=L 4; h0 45 .

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Y.S. Li et al. / Appl. Math. Modelling 24 (2000) 551574

Acknowledgements
The work described here is supported by both the Hong Kong Research Grants Council
(No. PolyU 57/96E) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Contract No.
59479006).
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