The energy of internal waves tends to be propagated along certain characteristic paths inclined at fixed angles to the vertical direction; the angle of inclination depending only on the wave frequency and the density stratification (not on the wavelength). The reflexion of such waves by smooth plane surfaces has been discussed recently by Sandstrom (1966).
In the present paper the role of surface roughness is examined. Surprisingly, it appears that quite small-scale irregularities can completely alter the reflecting properties of a surface; the tangential scale of the roughness elements may be much smaller than the wavelength of the incident or reflected waves. All scales of roughness are relevant, down to those comparable in magnitude to the thickness of the oscillatory boundary layer. For tidal waves in the ocean this thickness is of the order of 1 m.
The behaviour of the coefficient of transmission as a function of the angle of incidence appears at first sight to be extremely complicated. Some simple examples of periodic surface roughnesses are discussed and elucidated: a sawtooth, a square-topped wave and a simple sine-wave. The transmission coefficient T for a sine-wave, for example, is shown in figure 9. An approximate expression for T is also derived in the case of a slowly modulated sine-wave (figure 10). These results are for a non-viscous fluid. The effects of viscosity are also considered qualitatively.