16th Conference on Air-Sea Interaction


The contribution of wave breaking to air-sea interaction

J.M. Kleiss, SIO/Univ. of California, La Jolla, CA; and W. K. Melville

Breaking waves play an important role in air-sea interaction: enhancing momentum flux from the atmosphere to the ocean, dissipating wave energy that is then available for turbulent mixing, injecting aerosols and sea spray into the air, and affecting air-sea gas transfer due to the presence of bubbles. Observations are presented of the occurrence and strength of breaking waves under conditions of strong winds (10-25m/s) and fetch-limited seas (0-500km) from the Gulf of Tehuantepec Experiment in 2004. An aircraft-mounted, nadir-looking video camera, along with a scanning lidar, provide digital videos of the breaking sea surface and corresponding surface wave elevations. In particular, we present observations of the distribution of breaking wave crest length binned by wave breaking speed, Lambda(c)dc. The spectrally resolved Lambda(c)dc as well as bulk measurements of whitecap coverage and breaking rate, and distributions of wave breaking characteristics are presented for a range of wind speeds and sea states. Results are compared to previous studies, including whitecap coverage estimates from hurricanes in the Coupled Boundary Layers Air-Sea Transfer (CBLAST) experiment.

Session 9, Sea-Surface Physics, Including Waves, Whitecaps, and Aerosol Generation: Part 2
Wednesday, 14 January 2009, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM, Room 128A

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