Eugenio Pugliese Carratelli                     


All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There's a whole generation with a new explanation...

Scott Mackenzie -San Francisco 1967



People living in buildings near the shore in the city of Salerno (Campania, Italy), report strong wave induced vibrations during sea storms. Bottom slope is mild and sandy and there is also a subaerial beach - admittedly short, due to erosion. The sea front is not particularly high ( a couple of metres) . Isn 'it unusual for strong vibrations to occur in these conditions? Some geologist suggested the reason might be the presence of a high water table. Has anybody had a similar experience?  And more importantly, does it lead to a particular choise of breakwaters?  Seems to be particularly the case for - long - submerged reefs; am I right?

 I will be grateful for suggestions - and will report  all the answers to whoever might be interested.


 Eugenio Pugliese Carratelli






October 18, 2006


Dear Professor Pugliese Carratelli:


We have been working on the seismic signature of surf.  There are several mechanisms for generating seismic vibrations from waves.  The vibrations experiences there may be caused directly by the breaking waves or they could be caused by long-period, standing waves further from shore.  In either case the water table is likely to play an important role in the vibrations being felt on land.  Do the foundations of these buildings penetrate the water table?  Is the foundation substrate consolidated or unconsolidated?

 I would like to learn more about this situation and I’d be delighted to help if I can.  Had you gotten other responses?




Henry Bokuniewicz

Professor of Oceanography

Marine Sciences Research Center

Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, New York 11794-5000


 Phone: 1-631-632-8674

Fax: 1-631-632-8820





Dear Prof. Carratelli,
we performed field measurements on wave induced vibrations in the outer Elbe estuary in Germany. The field measurements were set-up after reports of local people on vibrations caused by ship waves. We were able to measure wave induced vibrations (caused by ship waves and wind waves) but the recorded vibrations were far away being destructive to structures and the attenuation is quite considerable. Vibrations were observed between 0.5 and 150 Hz. Other sources of vibrations caused much higher vibrations in our study.
Best regards
Holger Schüttrumpf 

Im Auftrag
Dr.-Ing. Holger Schüttrumpf

Bundesanstalt für Wasserbau (BAW)
Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute Wedeler Landstr. 157
22559 Hamburg
Tel.: (+49)-40-81908-332
Fax.: (+49)-40-81908-373



Dear Prof. Caratelli,


yes, I published some results on the PIANC congress this year in Estoril. The paper is not focusing on vibrations but gives you the main results of the vibration study. In addition to the vibration study we performed also pore pressure measurements in the dike as well as wave and water level recordings on the foreshore. Vibrations were measured at four positions (revetment, foreland, toe of dike and crest of dike). We have a report in German describing more details about the instruments and the analysis. Even if your structure might be different, you might be able to transfer some of the results and the measuring techniques. We spend quite some time to find an adequate instrumentation to measure vibrations over the whole range of frequencies.


Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about details of our study.


Best regards






A paper by Adams, Anderson and Revenaugh might be of interest; they
measured cliff shaking from wave impacts in California, and related it
to wave and tide characteristics:
Geology; October 2002; v. 30; no. 10; p. 895-898; DOI:


A. Brad Murray
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences
Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
Center for Nonlinear and Complex Systems
Duke University
Box 90230
Durham, NC 27708-0230 USA
ph:  (919) 681-5069
fax: (919) 684-5833





Pete Adams (formerly UCSC, now UF), Bob Anerson (formerly UCSC, now INSTAAR) and I used a seismometer installed in a seacliff along central California in 2003 to investigate this phenomena in after rumors(?) that the seismometer at UC Berkely was getting high-frequency noise at 5-25 sec periods in their seismometer data during the intense 1998 El Nino winter.  The seismometer recorded not only the impact of the waves every 4-20 seconds, but also the high-frequency  (O > 1 Hz) ringing of the cliffs and lower-frequency (O < 0.25 Hz) motions of the seacliff due to the loading and unloading of the intertidal and subtidal shore platform in front of the seacliff as the wave propagated over the shore platform.  See:

Adams, P.N., Storlazzi, C.D., and Anderson, R.S., 2005.  "Nearshore wave-induced cyclical flexing of seacliffs" Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface, v. 110, F02002, DOI:10.1029/2004JF000217.

Peter Bromirski (UCSD) has also done a lot of really good pioneering work on this subject:

1999. Ocean wave height determined from inland seismometer data: Implications for investigating wave climate changes in the NE Pacific., Journal of Geophysical Research, Oceans 104:20,753-20,766.

2001. Vibrations from the "Perfect Storm.", G3, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems V.2.2000GCD00119.

2002. The near-coastal microseism spectrum: Spatial and temporal wave climate relationships., Journal of Geophysical Research, Solid Earth



Curt Storlazzi, Ph.D.

Research Oceanographer

U.S. Geological Survey

Pacific Science Center

400 Natural Bridges Drive

Santa Cruz, CA  95060

(831) 427-4721 phone

(831) 427-4748 fax


Staff web page:


Coral Reef Project:


Pleasure Point Project:




There was a wave measurement program at Oregon State University based on seismic measurements.  This was several years ago and I’m not sure who remains who would know about it.  Dan Cox was not there at the time, but he may have the corporate knowledge.


Martin C. Miller, Ph.D.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Marine Sciences Operation
1529 West Sequim Bay Road
Sequim, WA

360 681-3668 - Office
360 477-9906 - Cell
360 681-3681 - Fax



Data: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 08:48:41 +0200
      Da: Rob Holman <>
Rispondi-A:Rob Holman <>
 Oggetto: Re: [Coastal_list] Vibrations at the coast
       A: "Miller, Martin C" <>
      Cc: Alan Brampton <>, "coastal_list@UDel.Edu"

There was a paper in the late 70's by Dave Zopf, Clay Creech and
someone else describing the development and testing of a
microseismometer system for wave measurements on the Oregon Coast,
based on the mechanism discussed previously by Longuet-Higgins.  This
device was empirically calibrated and is approximate, but has yielded
credible data for almost 30 years (it is still on line).

Anne Trehu et al from OSU  also did work on this mechanism as part of
the SAMSON experiment in 1990 in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
They say local double frequency response, particularly under turning
wind fields, but also saw spectacular teleseismic signals that appear
to have originated on the Alaska Coast.


Vostro Schiavo Umile
Rob Holman
SECNAV/CNO Chair in Oceanography

104 Ocean Admin Bldg
Corvallis, Oregon, USA 97331-5503


Data: Tue, 24 Oct 2006 09:48:34 -0700
      Da: Jerry Smith <>
Rispondi-A:Jerry Smith <>
 Oggetto: [Coastal_list] Re: Vibrations at the coast
       A: coastal_list@UDel.Edu

Those of you following this thread may be interested in this recent

Title: When Katrina hit California
Author(s): Gerstoft P, Fehler MC, Sabra KG
Source: GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS 33 (17): Art. No. L17308 SEP 8 2006
Document Type: Article
Language: English
Cited References: 16      Times Cited: 0      Find Related Records

Abstract: Beamforming of seismic noise recorded on 150 Southern
California stations was used to identify body and surface waves
generated by Katrina. Surface wave microseisms are commonly
associated with oceanic storms; there are no previous comprehensive
body wave observations. The temporal evolution of the surface and
body waves was different, indicating a different source mechanism for
the two wave types. The body-waves originated in shallow water east
of New Orleans and propagated deep inside the Earth. The surface
waves have source location that varies with frequency with the lowest
frequency surface waves originating west of the hurricane track and
the higher frequency ones to the east. The seismic observations are
consistent with ocean wave hindcasts and provide clear association of
microseism noise with storm activity.


Cheers, Jerry Smith
SIO, UCSD, 92093-0213


I do not disagree with Dr Muller's general discussion on wave impact
induced vibrations, but on one aspect I must make a correction.
The Admiralty Breakwater at Alderney is indeed generally founded on a
rubble mound, larger towards the outer end, but there are two places
where it crosses rock outcrops, especially along the landward side.
These points have been termed the 'hinges', and were of particular
interest to the team led by Coode & Partners in the early 1990s when
they analysed long-term movements of the breakwater wall.  If I recall
correctly, most upward or downward movements of the wall occurred either
side of these 'hinges'.
I therefore conclude that there probably is less damping or dynamic
de-coupling than Dr Muller suspects, at least at those points.  Coupled
with the propensity of this breakwater to attract violent wave impacts,
it is not surprising that the last major failure of the breakwater wall
was reported as being heard across the island.
with best regards,

N. William H. Allsop
Technical Director, Maritime Structures
HR Wallingford
Howbery Park
Wallingford, OX10 8BA
Tel: +44 (0)1491 82 22 30
Fax: +44 (0)1491 83 22 33




Dear Prof. Carratelli,

Been a structural engineer as well as a coastal one, thought that your problem is very interesting.

I have never experienced something like that. Due to the fact that you feel the vibrations (that is to say they are in the human perception spectrum), suggests that they are of periods of the order of sub-second. This is somehow large period compared to solid rock periods (not the seismic waves). So, I think there might be some cavity(s) somewhere underneath the nearby housing area, which due to fluxuating water pressures (as well as due to nearby breaking wave dynamics), through which the pressure waves are transmitted to the above soil layers. The exact geology of the region in 3-dimensional space might give the answer to the mobility of the strata. That might be potentially dangerous. All depends on the strata thicknesses, the materials involved, the water table, the easiness of water movement below (probably like a piston up and down), forcing the strata to vibrate.

I hope that might be an idea of the phenomenon's mechanics. I shall be very interested to hear other ideas as well.

H R Cohen

Civil Engineer

HRC Consulting Engineers
23, Ikarias str.

14578 Ekali


' +30210 8133 385
7  +30210 8132 442




October 18, 2006



Email to Professor Pugliese Carratelli


Dear Professor Pugliese Carratelli:


We have been working on the seismic signature of surf.  There are several mechanisms for generating seismic vibrations from waves.  The vibrations experiences there may be caused directly by the breaking waves or they could be caused by long-period, standing waves further from shore.  In either case the water table is likely to play an important role in the vibrations being felt on land.  Do the foundations of these buildings penetrate the water table?  Is the foundation substrate consolidated or unconsolidated?


I would like to learn more about this situation and I’d be delighted to help if I can.  Had you gotten other responses?





Henry Bokuniewicz

Professor of Oceanography

Marine Sciences Research Center

Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, New York 11794-5000



Phone: 1-631-632-8674

Fax: 1-631-632-8820





> > Prof. Ing. Eugenio Pugliese Carratelli
> >
> > A few years ago I was retained by a city here in Canada to investigate and
> > remediate a similar situation.
> >
> > We set up a monitoring/data collection program and confirmed that in
> >  fact there
> > was a direct correlation between vibrations experienced in nearby
> residences
> > and the occurence of storm waves and their breaking on the shoreline.  The
> > problem was successfully resolved with some innovative coastal
> > engineering and
> > everyone is very satisfied with the results.
> >
> > I don't know if the setting and metocean conditions are the same as yours
> but
> > they sound similar.
> >
> > At the moment I am offshore and have limited comms.  I would be pleased to
> > provide more information on my return to terra firma sometime in November.
> >
> > Best Regards
> > John Readshaw, P. Eng.
> > Manager, Coastal and Ocean Engineering.
 John Readshaw <>:


> John,
> yours is the most interesting (and intriguing) answer I got so far; I
> do not have time to conduct a proper investigation so the only option
> I was thinking of was  to reduce the impact itself by
> A)locating a(submerged ) wave barrier as far as possible from the
> shoreline and B) byreconstructing the beach with the mildest possible
> slope.
> can you advice me about other  possibilities, even before you go back
> ashore? (By the  way, where are you??)
> Thank you, and best regards
> eugenio

I am currently offshore on the Sea of Okhotsk.

The situation I was describing was caused largely by the construction of a
small, approximately 2 m high, stepped concrete seawall - this overlaid on an
80 year old recurved seawall that had worked without a problem for many years.

Beach erosion had also been a problem over the last 20 years.

We eventually constructed a gravel - rock headland beach system after a full
scale test program (Phase 1) and a physical model test program to design Phase

The gravel beach has developed into a very popular recreational feature for the
City.  Now the biggest problem is a lack of parking in the area!

Best Regards


"Goshow, Christopher" <>:

> Is the area in a diffracted zone?  Are the wave heights and periods
> rather large during the storms?   Without getting into the technical
> details, I would first think a clean diffracted (swell-like) wave
> propagating at a nearly constant wave period would generate such a
> phenomenon at breaking.  I have experienced this rhythmic "thumping"
> when I lived on the beach in Florida.  Summertime swell would always be
> very clean small waves breaking on a steep beach.  So rhythmic that it
> would keep me awake!
> Sounds like something above interacting with the ground water table
> could cause a shock effect??
> Christopher K. Goshow, P.E.
> Island Global Yachting
> Shatha Tower 40th Floor, Office 4002
> P.O. Box 211592, Dubai, UAE
> Tel:  +971-4-363-1500
> Fax: +971-4-368-8218
> Mob: +971-50-451-6405
> <>


In other words, waves are noisy...  What I wonder, when and why does 
this noise turn into proper shocks?  It is probably due to the impact 
on the vertical wall at the end of the beach, or on the subaerial 
beach itself. And the water table may or may not have to do with the 
transmission of the shock itself. Unfotunately we don't have time to 
conduct a proper investigation so the only option is probably to 
reduce the impact itself by A) locating the (submarged ) wave barrier 
as far as possible from the shoreline and B) by reconstructing the 
beach with the mildest possible slope.  Do you have any experience or 

Best regards



Prof Carratelli:

Longuet-Higgins developed the theory of microseisms, due to the interaction of incident and reflected waves.  It is due to the second order wave pressure, which includes a term that does not diminish with depth but oscillates in time.

Ciao, Tony

On Oct 16, 2006, at 1:26 PM, epc wrote:


Robert A.Dalrymple

Department of Civil Engineering

Johns Hopkins University

410 516 7923


would be very interested to know your findings, it seems as if the waves are close to the natural frequency of the foundations.  That is what I think of first.  I would like to know more ad think about it a little.  Possibly a breakwater to dampen the energy of the waves. <>



I work in a building in New Orleans that is perhaps 20-25 metes from a railroad track that carries slow moving freight trains.  When ever a train passes, there is considerable vibration in the building.  I have attributed this to the soils – mostly silts and clays with a high water content.  Our building is pile supported.

 Perhaps there are fine soils with a high water content underneath the sand beach and the pounding of the waves is thus transmitted to the foundation of the apartment buildings close to the beach.

 Please include me with any interesting responses.


Winer, Harley S MVN

Harley S.Winer, Ph.D, P.E.

Chief, Coastal Engineering Section

New Orleans District, Corps of Engineers

 (504) 862-2454


Dear Eugenio,
I saw an article in the new scientist which might be of interest and may give you some leads.  The article talked about a seismic hum generated by waves hitting the shoreline during hurricane Katrina. These waves were felt nearly 3000 kilometres away in southern California.  The link below should take you to the the article.
A colleague tells me there was a prof. in Australia who was investigating the phenomena 10 years ago, but my colleague can not remember the prof. name.




Harley S.Winer, Ph.D, P.E.

Chief, Coastal Engineering Section

New Orleans District, Corps of Engineers


(504) 862-2454





Prof,     My research into causes of beach erosion along the

North Carolina, USA  coastline suggests that the Buildings

themselves collect the rain, particularly during strong winds

on the sides of the buildings and concentrate the storm water

under the foundations.  this elevates the Beach water table

exit point resulting in erosion during a falling tide.  During a

Hurricane, with 15-20 ft waves, you can feel the waves over

a mile inland.   Of considerable interest to me is the presence

of standing waves within the Surf Zone,   waves reflected off

the beach interact with incoming waves and form very large

standing waves,  but they don't "Break" they collapse.


  Its important also, that any other source of water, such as

Septic Tanks, will also contribute to the Erosion.

By comparing uninhabited Islands with inhabited islands

that were subjected to the same Storms, it became apparent

that the cause of our beach erosion is an elevated beach

water table due to the Buildings on the nearshore.

   I would be pleased to share our research with you if interested

rsp   DB


Prof,   I forgot to reply to your most important question, " does it

lead to a particular choice of breakwater?"   Yes Sir,  I believe that

it suggests that a breakwater might not be the solution,  Wave

Run-up  may be "pumping up" the beach,  but its more likely that

the elevated water table is caused ashore.  Rsp,   Denny


 Dennison Breese





Dear Prof. Ing. Eugenio Pugliese Carratelli,

Did you check the geological maps of the area?

Did this happen before (did you check past history of
the area)?

What material is between the foundations of the
buildings and the shore?

Check how the foundations made?

Sand is not such strong material, therefore there will
be an erosion as you said probably much more if there
were gravel at these location. Therefore, there is a
case that the material of the area to be collapsed
(the beach to be eroded and the water to come further
to the land). In this case, maybe the distance between
the foundations of the buildings that the the people
living and the shore to be decreased. Consequently,
the force that generating by the waves will have an
impact on the foundations of the buildings.

AS far as the type of breakwaters to be used, the
submerged breakwaters and especially contained by
gravel or reef will be have great impact at the storm
waves and especially if there are long. However, you
must find first the root of the problem and then
decide if you need to use breakwaters or not, because
instead to do something good maybe will make it worst.

I hope my proposals to be helpful. Please, inform me
if you find the problem and the solution of your

Kind Regards,



christos antoniadis <>



Data: Tue, 24 Oct 2006 15:38:33 -0700
      Da: "Moritz, Heidi P NWP" <>
Rispondi-A:"Moritz, Heidi P NWP" <>

I am sure that there is someone at OSU or who used to work there who knows
more about this interesting data collection system than I do.  However, I did
include the microseismometer data that Dr. Miller refers to below in an
extremal analysis of wave heights along the Oregon Coast.  Period of record
for the mircroseismometer gage at that time was 1971 to 2000.  Water depth
(approximate) of measurement was 20 m, calibrated to deep water.  For the
period of analysis used in my study (1991 to 2000) the seismometer gage
recorded 15 events with a wave height greater than 6m, compared to 55 to 121
events measured by the NDBC buoys.  The data measured may have interesting
applications for a variety of purposes, however, it was determined that the
microseismometer gage did not record a sufficient number of significant
storms to be representative of the extremal wave climate.

Heidi Moritz, P.E.

Coastal Engineer U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District (CENWP-EC-HY)

P.O. Box 2946  Portland, OR  97208 (503)808-4893


Dear Professor Carratelli:

Vibrations induced in the coast have been observed in California.  At one time, vibration sensitive sensors were placed in the beach near the Humboldt Jetties near Eureka, California, to record and study these vibrations as a possible way to measure the energy of ocean waves breaking on the beach. 

Although I no longer have these references, they may  be available from the Water Resourses Center Archive at the University of California in Berkeley, California.

Orville T. Magoon
600 Chestnut St. Unit 409
San Francisco, CA 94133-3279
(415) 931-1842 fax 415-931-9241




Look into microseisms associated with reflected waves. geohones are used to emasure such waves.



Bob Dean














Lastrevised2013 - EPC