Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 84: Nov-Dec 1992

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Solitary Waves

Unlike the well-known long trains of ocean swells that sweep past ship and swimmer with great regularity, solitary waves move "in splendid isolation, steadfastly holding their shape." Spacecraft photos have revealed curious striations in the Andaman Sea near Thailand. They are presumed to be examples of solitary waves. The Andaman waves extend for many miles and travel very slowly -- less than 10 kilometers per hour. They propagate along the boundary between the layer of warm surface water and the great mass of cooler water below. The amplitude of the downwardly pointing wave troughs of warm water along this interface may penetrate as far as 100 meters into the cold water below.

(Herman, Russell; "Solitary Waves," American Scientist, 80:350, 1992.)

Comment. Much more about these solitary waves and the other unusual waves mentioned above may be found in section GHW in our catalog: Earthquakes, Tides, Unidentified Sounds. The prevailing explanation for most oceanic solitary waves (often called "solitons") is that they are generated when tidal surges encounter underwater continental shelves or other obstructions.

The above-mentioned catalog volume is described at: here.

From Science Frontiers #84, NOV-DEC 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987