Fredric Raichlen

On a hot summer day, we enjoy watching the waves gently advance and recede while relaxing on the beach. When a wave meets excited waders in the water, they jump and scream with delight. However, from where do these waves come? Why do they break on the shore, and how do they form? In Waves, Fredric Raichlen describes how waves develop through time, from their origin in the deep ocean to their impacts on the coast. He describes both the science of waves and the technology that can be employed to safeguard us against their more extreme manifestations, such as hurricanes and tsunamis, in a way easily understood by nonscientists.

Following a brief definition of waves and an explanation of how wind waves are generated, Raichlen goes on to explain how waves move, shoal (raise), break and undergo various changes. He continues by describing, among other things, the intricate interactions between the sun, earth, and moon that produce astronomical tides (the daily, predictable high and low tides); the impacts of waves on the beach, such as rip currents and beach erosion; as well as on harbors and shipping; and the construction of breakwaters to safeguard harbors and bays. He talks about hurricanes, storm surges, and waves brought on by hurricanes. He provides a succinct history of tsunamis, including those that occurred in Sumatra in 2004 and Japan in 2011, and discusses the processes that cause them (including earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes).

Waves might be insignificant swells that gently lap the coast or enormous tsunamis that obliterate everything in their path. Waves provide a different kind of beach reading by describing the science driving this astounding variety.