Light, Sound and Waves

Cliffs and clapotis

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

Waves reflected from vertical cliff faces can form a standing wave when they interfere with incoming waves in a process called clapotis. Clapotis rarely results in completely destructive interference as energy will be absorbed by shallow sea beds or transferred to waves scattered by an imperfectly perpendicular cliff face. When large waves strike sea walls, clapotis can produce impressive plumes where the incident and reflected waves superimpose – these may also cause substantial erosion to the structure. When waves strike a barrier at an angle, the crests formed by interference may make a diamond-shaped pattern, known as clapotis gaufré.


2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more