skip to main content

Title: Pressure fields in the airflow over wind-generated surface waves
Abstract The quantification of pressure fields in the airflow over water waves is fundamental for understanding the coupling of the atmosphere and the ocean. The relationship between the pressure field, and the water surface slope and velocity, are crucial in setting the fluxes of momentum and energy. However, quantifying these fluxes is hampered by difficulties in measuring pressure fields at the wavy air-water interface. Here we utilise results from laboratory experiments of wind-driven surface waves. The data consist of particle image velocimetry of the airflow combined with laser-induced fluorescence of the water surface. These data were then used to develop a pressure field reconstruction technique based on solving a pressure Poisson equation in the airflow above water waves. The results allow for independent quantification of both the viscous stress and pressure-induced form drag components of the momentum flux. Comparison of these with an independent bulk estimate of the total momentum flux (based on law-of-the-wall theory) shows that the momentum budget is closed to within approximately 5%. In the partitioning of the momentum flux between viscous and pressure drag components, we find a greater influence of form drag at high wind speeds and wave slopes. An analysis of the various approximations and assumptions made in the pressure reconstruction, along with the corresponding sources of error, is also presented.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1950077 2023626
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Physical Oceanography
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The small-scale physics within the first centimetres above the wavy air–sea interface are the gateway for transfers of momentum and scalars between the atmosphere and the ocean. We present an experimental investigation of the surface wind stress over laboratory wind-generated waves. Measurements were performed at the University of Delaware's large wind-wave-current facility using a recently developed state-of-the-art wind-wave imaging system. The system was deployed at a fetch of 22.7 m, with wind speeds from 2.19 to $16.63\ \textrm {m}\ \textrm {s}^{-1}$ . Airflow velocity fields were acquired using particle image velocimetry above the wind waves down to $100\ \mathrm {\mu }\textrm {m}$ above the surface, and wave profiles were detected using laser-induced fluorescence. The airflow intermittently separates downwind of wave crests, starting at wind speeds as low as $2.19\ \textrm {m}\ \textrm {s}^{-1}$ . Such events are accompanied by a dramatic drop in tangential viscous stress past the wave's crest, and a gradual regeneration of the viscous sublayer upon the following (downwind) crest. This contrasts with non-airflow separating waves, where the surface viscous stress drop is less significant. Airflow separation becomes increasingly dominant with increasing wind speed and wave slope $a k$ (where $a$ and $k$ are peak wave amplitude and wavenumber, respectively). At the highest wind speed ( $16.63\ \textrm {m}\ \textrm {s}^{-1}$ ), airflow separation occurs over nearly 100 % of the wave crests. The total air–water momentum flux is partitioned between viscous stress and form drag at the interface. Viscous stress (respectively form drag) dominates at low (respectively high) wave slopes. Tangential viscous forcing makes a minor contribution ( ${\sim }3\,\%$ ) to wave growth. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Air–sea momentum and scalar fluxes are strongly influenced by the coupling dynamics between turbulent winds and a spectrum of waves. Because direct field observations are difficult, particularly in high winds, many modeling and laboratory studies have aimed to elucidate the impacts of the sea state and other surface wave features on momentum and energy fluxes between wind and waves as well as on the mean wind profile and drag coefficient. Opposing wind is common under transient winds, for example, under tropical cyclones, but few studies have examined its impacts on air–sea fluxes. In this study, we employ a large-eddy simulation for wind blowing over steep sinusoidal waves of varying phase speeds, both following and opposing wind, to investigate impacts on the mean wind profile, drag coefficient, and wave growth/decay rates. The airflow dynamics and impacts rapidly change as the wave age increases for waves following wind. However, there is a rather smooth transition from the slowest waves following wind to the fastest waves opposing wind, with gradual enhancement of a flow perturbation identified by a strong vorticity layer detached from the crest despite the absence of apparent airflow separation. The vorticity layer appears to increase the effective surface roughness and wave form drag (wave attenuation rate) substantially for faster waves opposing wind.

    Significance Statement

    Surface waves increase friction at the sea surface and modify how wind forces upper-ocean currents and turbulence. Therefore, it is important to include effects of different wave conditions in weather and climate forecasts. We aim to inform more accurate forecasts by investigating wind blowing over waves propagating in the opposite direction using large-eddy simulation. We find that when waves oppose wind, they decay as expected, but also increase the surface friction much more drastically than when waves follow wind. This finding has important implications for how waves opposing wind are represented as a source of surface friction in forecast models.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The coupled dynamics of turbulent airflow and a spectrum of waves are known to modify air–sea momentum and scalar fluxes. Waves traveling at oblique angles to the wind are common in the open ocean, and their effects may be especially relevant when constraining fluxes in storm and tropical cyclone conditions. In this study, we employ large-eddy simulation for airflow over steep, strongly forced waves following and opposing oblique wind to elucidate its impacts on the wind speed magnitude and direction, drag coefficient, and wave growth/decay rate. We find that oblique wind maintains a signature of airflow separation while introducing a cross-wave component strongly modified by the waves. The directions of mean wind speed and mean wind shear vary significantly with height and are misaligned from the wind stress direction, particularly toward the surface. As the oblique angle increases, the wave form drag remains positive, but the wave impact on the equivalent surface roughness (drag coefficient) rapidly decreases and becomes negative at large angles. Our findings have significant implications for how the sea-state-dependent drag coefficient is parameterized in forecast models. Our results also suggest that wind speed and wind stress measurements performed on a wave-following platform can be strongly contaminated by the platform motion if the instrument is inside the wave boundary layer of dominant waves.

    Significance Statement

    Surface waves increase friction at the sea surface and modify how wind forces upper-ocean currents and turbulence. Therefore, it is important to include effects of different wave conditions in weather and climate forecasts. We aim to inform more accurate forecasts by investigating wind blowing over waves propagating in oblique directions using large-eddy simulation. We find that waves traveling at a 45° angle or larger to the wind grow as expected, but do not increase or even decrease the surface friction felt by the wind—a surprising result that has significant implications for how oblique wind-waves are represented as a source of surface friction in forecast models.

    more » « less
  4. The momentum and energy exchanges at the ocean surface are central factors determining the sea state, weather patterns and climate. To investigate the effects of surface waves on the air–sea energy exchanges, we analyse high-resolution laboratory measurements of the airflow velocity acquired above wind-generated surface waves using the particle image velocimetry technique. The velocity fields were further decomposed into the mean, wave-coherent and turbulent components, and the corresponding energy budgets were explored in detail. We specifically focused on the terms of the budget equations that represent turbulence production, wave production and wave–turbulence interactions. Over wind waves, the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) production is positive at all heights with a sharp peak near the interface, indicating the transfer of energy from the mean shear to the turbulence. Away from the surface, however, the TKE production approaches zero. Similarly, the wave kinetic energy (WKE) production is positive in the lower portion of the wave boundary layer (WBL), representing the transfer of energy from the mean flow to the wave-coherent field. In the upper part of the WBL, WKE production becomes slightly negative, wherein the energy is transferred from the wave perturbation to the mean flow. The viscous and Stokes sublayer heights emerge as natural vertical scales for the TKE and WKE production terms, respectively. The interactions between the wave and turbulence perturbations show an energy transfer from the wave to the turbulence in the bulk of the WBL and from the turbulence to the wave in a thin layer near the interface. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    The air–sea momentum exchanges in the presence of surface waves play an integral role in coupling the atmosphere and the ocean. In the current study, we present a detailed laboratory investigation of the momentum fluxes over wind-generated waves. Experiments were performed in the large wind-wave facility at the Air–Sea Interaction Laboratory of the University of Delaware. Airflow velocity measurements were acquired above wind waves using a combination of particle image velocimetry and laser-induced fluorescence techniques. The momentum budget is examined using a wave-following orthogonal curvilinear coordinate system. In the wave boundary layer, the phase-averaged turbulent stress is intense (weak) and positive downwind (upwind) of the crests. The wave-induced stress is also positive on the windward and leeward sides of wave crests but with asymmetric intensities. These regions of positive wave stress are intertwined with regions of negative wave stress just above wave crests and downwind of wave troughs. Likewise, at the interface, the viscous stress exhibits along-wave phase-locked variations with maxima upwind of the wave crests. As a general trend, the mean profiles of the wave-induced stress decrease to a negative minimum from a near-zero value far from the surface and then increase rapidly to a positive value near the interface where the turbulent stress is reduced. Far away from the surface, however, the turbulent stress is nearly equal to the total stress. Very close to the surface, in the viscous sublayer, the wave and turbulent stresses vanish, and therefore the stress is supported by the viscosity. 
    more » « less