skip to main content

Title: Direct Observation of Wave-Coherent Pressure Work in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Surface waves grow through a mechanism in which atmospheric pressure is offset in phase from the wavy surface. A pattern of low atmospheric pressure over upward wave orbital motions (leeward side) and high pressure over downward wave orbital motions (windward side) travels with the water wave, leading to a pumping of kinetic energy from the atmospheric boundary layer into the waves. This pressure pattern persists above the air–water interface, modifying the turbulent kinetic energy in the atmospheric wave-affected boundary layer. Here, we present field measurements of wave-coherent atmospheric pressure and velocity to elucidate the transfer of energy from the atmospheric turbulence budget into waves through wave-coherent atmospheric pressure work. Measurements show that the phase between wave-coherent pressure and velocity is shifted slightly above 90° when wind speed exceeds the wave phase speed, allowing for a downward energy flux via pressure work. Although previous studies have reported wave-coherent pressure, to the authors’ knowledge, these are the first reported field measurements of wave-coherent pressure work. Measured pressure work cospectra are consistent with an existing model for atmospheric pressure work. The implications for these measurements and their importance to the turbulent kinetic energy budget are discussed.

Significance Statement

Surface waves grow through a pattern of atmospheric pressure that travels with the water wave, acting as a pump against the water surface. The pressure pumping, sometimes called pressure work, or the piston pressure, results in a transfer of kinetic energy from the air to the water that makes waves grow larger. To conserve energy, it is thought that the pressure work on the surface must extract energy from the mean wind profile or wind turbulence that sets the shape of the wind speed with height. In this paper, we present direct measurements of pressure work in the atmosphere above surface waves. We show that the energy extracted by atmospheric pressure work fits existing models for how waves grow and a simple model for how waves reduce energy in the turbulent kinetic energy budget. To our knowledge, these are the first reported field measurements of wave-coherent pressure work.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Physical Oceanography
Medium: X Size: p. 445-459
p. 445-459
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Data from an air–sea interaction tower are used to close the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) budget in the wave-affected surface layer of the upper ocean. Under energetic wind forcing with active wave breaking, the dominant balance is between the dissipation rate of TKE and the downward convergence in vertical energy flux. The downward energy flux is driven by pressure work, and the TKE transport is upward, opposite to the downgradient assumption in most turbulence closure models. The sign and the relative magnitude of these energy fluxes are hypothesized to be driven by an interaction between the vertical velocity of Langmuir circulation (LC) and the kinetic energy and pressure of wave groups, which is the result of small-scale wave–current interaction. Consistent with previous modeling studies, the data suggest that the horizontal velocity anomaly associated with LC refracts wave energy away from downwelling regions and into upwelling regions, resulting in negative covariance between the vertical velocity of LC and the pressure anomaly associated with the wave groups. The asymmetry between downward pressure work and upward TKE flux is explained by the Bernoulli response of the sea surface, which results in groups of waves having a larger pressure anomaly than the corresponding kinetic energy anomaly, consistent with group-bound long-wave theory.

    more » « less
  2. 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
  3. This study analyzes high-resolution ship data collected in the Gulf of Mexico during the Lagrangian Submesoscale Experiment (LASER) from January to February 2016 to produce the first reported measurements of dissipative heating in the explicitly nonhurricane atmospheric surface layer. Although typically computed from theory as a function of wind speed cubed, the dissipative heating directly estimated via the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) dissipation rate is also presented. The dissipative heating magnitude agreed with a previous study that estimated the dissipative heating in the hurricane boundary layer using in situ aircraft data. Our observations that the 10-m neutral drag coefficient parameterized using TKE dissipation rate approaches zero slope as wind increases suggests that TKE dissipation and dissipative heating are constrained to a physical limit. Both surface-layer stability and sea state were observed to be important conditions influencing dissipative heating, with the stability determined via TKE budget terms and the sea state determined via wave steepness and age using direct shipboard measurements. Momentum and enthalpy fluxes used in the TKE budget are determined using the eddy-correlation method. It is found that the TKE dissipation rate and the dissipative heating are largest in a nonneutral atmospheric surface layer with a sea surface comprising steep wind sea and slow swell waves at a given surface wind speed, whereas the ratio of dissipative heating to enthalpy fluxes is largest in near-neutral stability where the turbulent vertical velocities are near zero.

    more » « less
  4. Turbulent processes in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) play a key role in weather and climate systems. This study explores a Lagrangian analysis of wave-driven OSBL turbulence, based on a large-eddy simulation (LES) model coupled to a Lagrangian stochastic model (LSM). Langmuir turbulence (LT) is captured by Craik–Leibovich wave forcing that generates LT through the Craik–Leibovich type 2 (CL2) mechanism. Breaking wave (BW) effects are modeled by a surface turbulent kinetic energy flux that is constrained by wind energy input to surface waves. Unresolved LES subgrid-scale (SGS) motions are simulated with the LSM to be energetically consistent with the SGS model of the LES. With LT, Lagrangian autocorrelations of velocities reveal three distinct turbulent time scales: an integral, a dispersive mixing, and a coherent structure time. Coherent structures due to LT result in relatively narrow peaks of Lagrangian frequency velocity spectra. With and without waves, the high-frequency spectral tail is consistent with expectations for the inertial subrange, but BWs substantially increase spectral levels at high frequencies. Consistently, over short times, particle-pair dispersion results agree with the Richardson–Obukhov law, and near-surface dispersion is significantly enhanced because of BWs. Over longer times, our dispersion results are consistent with Taylor dispersion. In this case, turbulent diffusivities are substantially larger with LT in the crosswind direction, but reduced in the along-wind direction because of enhanced turbulent transport by LT that reduces mean Eulerian shear. Our results indicate that the Lagrangian analysis framework is effective and physically intuitive to characterize OSBL turbulence.

    more » « less
  5. This study utilizes a large-eddy simulation (LES) approach to systematically assess the directional variability of wave-driven Langmuir turbulence (LT) in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) under tropical cyclones (TCs). The Stokes drift vector, which drives LT through the Craik–Leibovich vortex force, is obtained through spectral wave simulations. LT’s direction is identified by horizontally elongated turbulent structures and objectively determined from horizontal autocorrelations of vertical velocities. In spite of a TC’s complex forcing with great wind and wave misalignments, this study finds that LT is approximately aligned with the wind. This is because the Reynolds stress and the depth-averaged Lagrangian shear (Eulerian plus Stokes drift shear) that are key in determining the LT intensity (determined by normalized depth-averaged vertical velocity variances) and direction are also approximately aligned with the wind relatively close to the surface. A scaling analysis of the momentum budget suggests that the Reynolds stress is approximately constant over a near-surface layer with predominant production of turbulent kinetic energy by Stokes drift shear, which is confirmed from the LES results. In this layer, Stokes drift shear, which dominates the Lagrangian shear, is aligned with the wind because of relatively short, wind-driven waves. On the contrary, Stokes drift exhibits considerable amount of misalignments with the wind. This wind–wave misalignment reduces LT intensity, consistent with a simple turbulent kinetic energy model. Our analysis shows that both the Reynolds stress and LT are aligned with the wind for different reasons: the former is dictated by the momentum budget, while the latter is controlled by wind-forced waves.

    more » « less