20th Symposium on Boundary Layers and Turbulence/18th Conference on Air-Sea Interaction

Monday, 9 July 2012
The many faces of oceanic whitecaps: A multi-instrument field campaign
St. George BCD (Westin Copley Place)
Magdalena D. Anguelova, NRL, Washington, DC; and D. J. Dowgiallo, G. Smith, S. L. Means, I. B. Savelyev, G. M. Frick, C. M. Snow, J. A. Schindall, and J. P. Bobak

Poster PDF (4.4 MB)

Whitecap fraction quantifies the most direct surface expression of breaking wind waves in the ocean. It is thus a suitable forcing variable for parameterizing and predicting various air-sea interaction processes. To this end, we have compiled a database of whitecap fraction W from satellites-borne microwave radiometric observations. These observations provide the total W including foam generated during active breaking of wind-driven waves and residual foam left behind by these breaking waves. However, the whitecap fraction associated with the actively breaking waves WA is needed for dynamic air-sea processes in the upper ocean such as turbulent mixing, gas exchange, ocean ambient noise, and spray-mediated intensification of tropical storms. To parameterize such processes, a database of WA separate from W is needed. We pursue this separation of WA from W by combining the Phillips concept of breaking wave statistics which connects WA with the energy dissipation rate of breaking waves and parametric estimates of energy dissipation from wave spectra measured from buoys.

We seek additional physical understanding of, and experimental support for, this separation with a multi-instrumental field campaign. The instrumentation deployed includes a suite of sensors recording the whitecaps and breaking waves on the surface over wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum: visible (video cameras), infrared (IR camera), and microwave (radiometers at two frequencies, 10 GHz and 37 GHz). An acoustic array at 4 frequencies and aerosol/particle counter provide data for the bubbles generated beneath and sea spray produced above the whitecaps. We will also deploy a transmitter horn to collect data useful to asses Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), which affects the collection and accuracy of satellite-based data. Various auxiliary data such as wind speed, air temperature, humidity, wave field, and water temperature profile characterize the experimental conditions.

The goal of this field campaign is to provide experimental data for determining WA and W independently from the Phillips concept for energy dissipation. In these measurements, we rely on the good separation between WA and W in the infrared (IR) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. We use the IR data to identify a separation criterion which then can be applied to time series of microwave and acoustic data. Obtaining WA via this separation criterion and comparing the results with those from the Phillips concept, we will have additional possibility to constrain WA obtained using energy dissipation. The measurements are made in April-May, 2012, on the Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) drifting along the coast of California from Monterey Bay south toward Point Conception. We describe the experiment, characterize the study site, and present first data collected during this campaign.

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