skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 10:00 PM ET on Friday, December 8 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 9 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Three‐Dimensional Measurements of Air Entrainment and Enhanced Bubble Transport During Wave Breaking

We experimentally investigate the depth distributions and dynamics of air bubbles entrained by breaking waves in a wind‐wave channel over a range of breaking wave conditions using high‐resolution imaging and three‐dimensional bubble tracking. Below the wave troughs, the bubble concentration decays exponentially with depth. Patches of entrained bubbles are identified for each breaking wave, and statistics describing the horizontal and vertical transport are presented. Aggregating our results, we find a stream‐wise transport faster than the associated Stokes drift and modified Stokes drift for buoyant particles, which is an effect not accounted for in current models of bubble transport. This enhancement in transport is attributed to the flow field induced by the breaking waves and is relevant for the transport of bubbles, oil droplets, and microplastics at the ocean surface.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
1829660 2122042
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Bubbles bursting at the ocean surface are an important source of ocean‐spray aerosol, with implications on radiative and cloud processes. Yet, very large uncertainties exist on the role of key physical controlling parameters, including wind speed, sea state and water temperature. We propose a mechanistic sea spray generation function that is based on the physics of bubble bursting. The number and mean droplet radius of jet and film drops is described by scaling laws derived from individual bubble bursting laboratory and numerical experiments, as a function of the bubble radius and the water physico‐chemical properties (viscosity, density and surface tension, all functions of temperature), with drops radii at production from 0.1 to 500 µm. Next, we integrate over the bubble size distribution entrained by breaking waves. Finally, the sea spray generation function is obtained by considering the volume flux of entrained bubbles due to breaking waves in the field constrained by the third moment of the breaking distribution (akin to the whitecap coverage). This mechanistic approach naturally integrates the role of wind and waves via the breaking distribution and entrained air flux, and a sensitivity to temperature via individual bubble bursting mechanisms. The resulting sea spray generation function has not been tuned or adjusted to match any existing data sets, in terms of magnitude of sea salt emissions and recently observed temperature dependencies. The remarkable coherence between the model and observations of sea salt emissions therefore strongly supports the mechanistic approach and the resulting sea spray generation function.

    more » « less
  2. We examine how Eulerian statistics of wave breaking and associated turbulence dissipation rates in a field of intermittent events compare with those obtained from sparse Lagrangian sampling by surface following drifters. We use a polydisperse two-fluid model with large-eddy simulation (LES) resolution and volume-of-fluid surface reconstruction (VOF) to simulate the generation and evolution of turbulence and bubbles beneath short-crested wave breaking events in deep water. Bubble contributions to dissipation and momentum transfer between the water and air phases are considered. Eulerian statistics are obtained from the numerical results, which are available on a fixed grid. Next, we sample the LES/VOF model results with a large number of virtual surface-following drifters that are initially distributed in the numerical domain, regularly or irregularly, before each breaking event. Time-averaged Lagrangian statistics are obtained using the time series sampled by the virtual drifters. We show that convergence of statistics occurs for signals that have minimum length of approximately 1000–3000 wave periods with randomly spaced observations in time and space relative to three-dimensional breaking events. We further show important effects of (i) extent of measurements over depth and (ii) obscuration of velocity measurements due to entrained bubbles, which are the two typical challenges in most of the available in situ observations of upper ocean wave breaking turbulence. An empirical correction factor is developed and applied to the previous observations of Thomson et al. Applying the new correction factor to the observations noticeably improves the inferred energy balance of wind input rates and turbulence dissipation rates. Finally, both our simulation results and the corrected observations suggested that the total wave breaking dissipation rates have a nearly linear relation with active whitecap coverage.

    more » « less
  3. We present high-resolution three-dimensional (3-D) direct numerical simulations of breaking waves solving for the two-phase Navier–Stokes equations. We investigate the role of the Reynolds number ( Re , wave inertia relative to viscous effects) and Bond number ( Bo , wave scale over the capillary length) on the energy, bubble and droplet statistics of strong plunging breakers. We explore the asymptotic regimes at high Re and Bo , and compare with laboratory breaking waves. Energetically, the breaking wave transitions from laminar to 3-D turbulent flow on a time scale that depends on the turbulent Re up to a limiting value $Re_\lambda \sim 100$ , consistent with the mixing transition in other canonical turbulent flows. We characterize the role of capillary effects on the impacting jet and ingested main cavity shape and subsequent fragmentation process, and extend the buoyant-energetic scaling from Deike et al. ( J. Fluid Mech. , vol. 801, 2016, pp. 91–129) to account for the cavity shape and its scale separation from the Hinze scale, $r_H$ . We confirm two regimes in the bubble size distribution, $N(r/r_H)\propto (r/r_H)^{-10/3}$ for $r>r_H$ , and $\propto (r/r_H)^{-3/2}$ for $r more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Making use of a Lagrangian description, we interpret the kinematics and analyze the mean transport due to numerically generated transient progressive waves, including breaking waves. The waves are packets and are generated with a boundary-forced, air–water, two-phase Navier–Stokes solver. These transient waves produce transient transport, which can sometimes be larger than what would be estimated using estimates developed for translationally invariant progressive waves. We identify the critical assumption that makes our standard notion of the steady Stokes drift inapplicable to the data and explain how and in what sense the transport due to transient waves can be larger than the steady counterpart. A comprehensive analysis of the data in the Lagrangian framework leads us to conclude that much of the transport can be understood using an irrotational approximation of the velocity, even though the simulations use Navier–Stokes fluid simulations with moderately high Reynolds numbers. Armed with this understanding, it is possible to formulate a simple Lagrangian model that captures the mean transport and variance of transport for a large range of wave amplitudes. For large-amplitude waves, the parcel paths in the neighborhood of the free surface exhibit increased dispersion and lingering transport due to the generation of vorticity. We examined the wave-breaking case. For this case, it is possible to characterize the transport very well, away from the wave boundary layer, and approximately using a simple model that captures the unresolved breaking dynamics via a stochastic parameterization.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The meroplanktonic larvae of many invertebrate and vertebrate species rely on physical transport to move them across the shelf to their adult habitats. One potential mechanism for cross‐shore larval transport is Stokes drift in internal waves. Here, we develop theory to quantify the Stokes velocities of neutrally buoyant and depth‐keeping organisms in linear internal waves in shallow water. We apply the analyses to theoretical and measured internal wave fields, and compare results with a numerical model. Near the surface and bottom boundaries, both neutrally buoyant and depth‐keeping organisms were transported in the direction of the wave's phase propagation. However, neutrally buoyant organisms were transported in the opposite direction of the wave's phase at mid depths, while depth‐keeping organisms had zero net transport there. Weakly depth‐keeping organisms had Stokes drifts between the perfectly depth‐keeping and neutrally buoyant organisms. For reasonable wave amplitudes and phase speeds, organisms would experience horizontal Stokes speeds of several centimeters per second—or a few kilometers per day in a constant wave field. With onshore‐polarized internal waves, Stokes drift in internal waves presents a predictable mechanism for onshore transport of meroplanktonic larvae and other organisms near the surface, and offshore transport at mid depths.

    more » « less