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.
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.