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Memorial Tributes, Volume 14
In other areas some of the early steady-state models predicted hurricane surges considerably lower than those measured at shore. Through graphical application of the method of characteristics, he showed that the amplification was due to a resonance resulting from the hurricane translation speed nearly matching the average speed of a long free wave across the shelf. This application included both linear and nonlinear effects.
Bob was interested in tsunamis and the risks imposed on nearshore areas. He developed and applied the first orthogonal coordinate system, which allowed a conformal mapping approach to the tsunami amplification on an irregularly shaped island. It was found that large observed inundations were primarily controlled by the geometry of the island and adjacent bathymetry and were relatively insensitive to the tsunami approach direction.
His capabilities to advance understanding on engineering problems led a number of companies and agencies to seek his assistance in better understanding these new challenges. He served as a member of the Coastal Engineering Research Board of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This board, comprising three civilians and four high-ranking military, is responsible for guidance and assessment of the Corps research program in coastal engineering. He also served on committees of the National Research Council, especially those related to hurricanes and storm surge prediction capabilities.
Bob mentored many graduate students in physical oceanography and ocean engineering, at both the master’s and the Ph.D. levels, whose later professional careers were enhanced by the examples he set by his curiosity and application of physical principles and mathematical techniques. Indeed, many of us who were fortunate to have benefited by his example of enthusiasm for problems in nature, his approach of representing problems in their most basic form, and the satisfaction of a meaningful solution are forever indebted to him.
A surprise celebration of Bob’s 60th birthday in 1983 was organized at Texas A&M University at which many of his