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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Great Barrier Reef: How reef morphology and sea level affects wave transmission

Currently Active: 

The magnitude and variability of the reduction in wave height and energy across reefs has implications for sediment transport, coastal engineering, and the flushing of reef-lagoons.

Offshore reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), consist of a 'reef matrix' of individual reefs which can be described through the porosity of the reef matrix. Little is currently known about how the porosity of reef matrices influences wave attenuation. This study uses satellite altimetry to gain new insights into wave attenuation over the Great Barrier Reef.

Satellite tracks and significant wave height (Hs) heading into the Great Barrier Reef
Figure 1


  • Wave height estimates from 5 satellites (ERS12, Topex-Poseidon, GFO, Jason1 & Envisat) over a period from 1995-2010, from which 20 useable tracks were selected (Figure 2)
  • Bathymetry along the satellite passes from 100 m resolution gbr100 grid provided by Project 3DGBR

Key Objectives

  • Investigate wave attenuation over the Great Barrier Reef and how this relates to reef porosity
  • Develop relationships for characterising wave attenuation as a function of reef matrix submergence
Bathymetry of the Great Barrier Reef showing the 20 useable altimeter tracks where wave attenuation and reformation were examined
Figure 2

Key Contacts

Dr Shari Gallop

Dr Ivan Haigh

PhDs and Other Opportunities


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