Dissipation of wave energy and turbulence in a shallow coral reef lagoon

Zhi Cheng Huang, Luc Lenain, W. Kendall Melville, Jason H. Middleton, Benjamin Reineman, Nicholas Statom, Ryan M. McCabe

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37 Scopus citations


Simultaneous in situ measurements of waves, currents and turbulence are presented to describe dissipation rates of wave energy and turbulent kinetic energy in the windward coral reef-lagoon system at Lady Elliot Island (LEI), Australia. The dissipation of wave energy in the lagoon is tidally modulated and strongly correlates with frictional dissipation due to the presence of the extremely rough bottom boundary. The observed turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) dissipation rate, ∈ , in this wave-dominated lagoon is much larger than recently reported values for unidirectional flows over natural fringing coral reefs. The correlation between the wave dissipation and is examined. The average rate of dissipation induced by the rough turbulent flow was estimated directly from the observed ∈ coupled with both a depth-integrated approach and with a bottom boundary layer scaling. Rates of TKE dissipation estimated using the two approaches approximate well, within a factor of 1.5 to 2.4, to the surface-wave energy dissipation rate. The wave dissipation and friction factor in the lagoon can be described by a spectral wave-frictional model with a bottom roughness length scale that is approximately constant across the lagoon. We also present estimates of dissipation induced by the canopy drag force of the coral heads. The dissipation in this case is enhanced and becomes more significant for the total energy dissipation when the water depth in the lagoon is comparable to the height of the coral heads.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberC03015
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


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