A new method is developed for approximating the scattering of linear surface gravity waves on water of varying quiescent depth in two dimensions. A conformal mapping of the fluid domain onto a uniform rectangular strip transforms steep and discontinuous bed profiles into relatively slowly varying, smooth functions in the transformed free-surface condition. By analogy with the mild-slope approach used extensively in unmapped domains, an approximate solution of the transformed problem is sought in the form of a modulated propagating wave which is determined by solving a second-order ordinary differential equation. This can be achieved numerically, but an analytic solution in the form of a rapidly convergent infinite series is also derived and provides simple explicit formulae for the scattered wave amplitudes. Small-amplitude and slow variations in the bedform that are excluded from the mapping procedure are incorporated in the approximation by a straightforward extension of the theory. The error incurred in using the method is established by means of a rigorous numerical investigation and it is found that remarkably accurate estimates of the scattered wave amplitudes are given for a wide range of bedforms and frequencies. © 2006 Cambridge University Press.
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