18-22 October 2021

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Ocean in the News

Concept of the Week: Seiche Model

A seiche (pronounced "say-sh") is a rhythmic oscillation of water in an enclosed basin (e.g., bathtub, lake, or reservoir) or a partially enclosed coastal inlet (e.g., bay, harbor, or estuary). With this oscillation, the water level rises at one end of a basin while simultaneously dropping at the other end. A seiche episode may last from a few minutes to a few days. (Refer to your textbook for more on seiches.)

With a typical seiche in an enclosed basin, the water level near the center does not change at all but that is where the water exhibits its greatest horizontal movement; this is the location of a node. At either end of an enclosed basin, vertical motion of the water surface is greatest (with minimal horizontal movement of water); these are locations of antinodes. The motion of the water surface during a seiche is somewhat like that of a seesaw: The balance point of the seesaw does not move up or down (analogous to a node) while people seated at either end of the seesaw move up and down (analogous to an antinode).

The natural period of a seiche depends on the length and depth of the basin and generally ranges from minutes to hours. The period is directly proportional to basin length. For example, the natural period of a seiche in a small pond is considerably less than its period in a large coastal inlet. Also, for the same basin, the natural period is inversely proportional to water depth; that is, the period shortens as water deepens.

A 41-second mp4 video http://ametsoc.org/amsedu/ds-ocean/Seiche_Calculator.mp4 was produced providing a graphical simulation of a seiche by the University of Delaware's Seiche Calculator. The first demonstration on the video shows a case with the "Modal Number" set to 1 with a seiche in an enclosed basin. The second demonstration is for the "Modal Number" to 0.5, which would represent partially enclosed basins that usually have a node located at the mouth (rather than near the center) and an antinode at the landward end.

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Prepared by AMS Ocean Central Staff and Edward J. Hopkins, Ph.D.,
email hopkins@aos.wisc.edu
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