delware environmental institute

Fingerprint algorithm helps UD researchers characterize ripples on the ocean floor

Human fingerprints are unique identifiers. The wiggles, curves and ripples cannot be copied or duplicated and provide a distinct signature that represents an individual. In the same way, strong storms — such as Superstorm Sandy — can leave a signature in the form of ripples on the seafloor.

Known as ripple bedforms, these small, dynamic swells are formed when waves generate currents that oscillate back and forth on the seafloor, stirring up sediments and sand. The larger the distance between successive waves on the water’s surface, theoretically, the larger the distance between the peaks of the ripples on the ocean floor below.

According to Carter DuVal, a University of Delaware doctoral student studying oceanography, being able to measure and interpret these ripples can help scientists understand storms that have already happened, and also can help scientists model and predict how future storms will behave.