Nonlinear shallow ocean-wave soliton interactions on flat beaches
Ocean waves are complex and often turbulent. While most ocean-wave interactions are essentially linear, sometimes two or more waves interact in a nonlinear way. For example, two or more waves can interact and yield waves that are much taller than the sum of the original wave heights. Most of these shallow-water nonlinear interactions look like an X or a Y or two connected Ys; at other times, several lines appear on each side of the interaction region. It was thought that such nonlinear interactions are rare events: they are not. Here we report that such nonlinear interactions occur every day, close to low tide, on two flat beaches that are about 2000 km apart. These interactions are closely related to the analytic, soliton solutions of a widely studied multidimensional nonlinear wave equation. On a much larger scale, tsunami waves can merge in similar ways.