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Fallacies of the Enthalpy Transfer Coefficient over the Ocean in High Winds

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  • 1 NorthWest Research Associates, Inc., Lebanon, New Hampshire
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Abstract

Mesoscale and large-scale atmospheric models use a bulk surface flux algorithm to compute the turbulent flux boundary conditions at the bottom of the atmosphere from modeled mean meteorological quantities such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity. This study, on the other hand, uses a state-of-the-art bulk air–sea flux algorithm in stand-alone mode to compute the surface fluxes of momentum, sensible and latent heat, and enthalpy for a wide range of typical (though randomly generated) meteorological conditions over the open ocean. The flux algorithm treats both interfacial transfer (controlled by molecular processes right at the air–sea interface) and transfer mediated by sea spray. Because these two transfer routes obey different scaling laws, neutral-stability, 10-m transfer coefficients for enthalpy CKN10, latent heat CEN10, and sensible heat CHN10 are quite varied when calculated from the artificial flux data under the assumption of only interfacial transfer—the assumption in almost all analyses of measured air–sea fluxes. That variability increases with wind speed because of increasing spray-mediated transfer and also depends on surface temperature and atmospheric stratification. The analysis thereby reveals as fallacious several assumptions that are common in air–sea interaction research—especially in high winds. For instance, CKN10, CEN10, and CHN10 are not constants; they are not even single-valued functions of wind speed, nor must they increase monotonically with wind speed if spray-mediated transfer is important. Moreover, the ratio CKN10/CDN10, where CDN10 is the neutral-stability, 10-m drag coefficient, does not need to be greater than 0.75 at all wind speeds, as many have inferred from Emanuel’s seminal paper in this journal. Data from the literature and from the Coupled Boundary Layers and Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) hurricane experiment tend to corroborate these results.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Edgar L Andreas, NorthWest Research Associates, Inc. (Seattle Division), 25 Eagle Ridge, Lebanon, NH 03766–1900. E-mail: eandreas@nwra.com

Abstract

Mesoscale and large-scale atmospheric models use a bulk surface flux algorithm to compute the turbulent flux boundary conditions at the bottom of the atmosphere from modeled mean meteorological quantities such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity. This study, on the other hand, uses a state-of-the-art bulk air–sea flux algorithm in stand-alone mode to compute the surface fluxes of momentum, sensible and latent heat, and enthalpy for a wide range of typical (though randomly generated) meteorological conditions over the open ocean. The flux algorithm treats both interfacial transfer (controlled by molecular processes right at the air–sea interface) and transfer mediated by sea spray. Because these two transfer routes obey different scaling laws, neutral-stability, 10-m transfer coefficients for enthalpy CKN10, latent heat CEN10, and sensible heat CHN10 are quite varied when calculated from the artificial flux data under the assumption of only interfacial transfer—the assumption in almost all analyses of measured air–sea fluxes. That variability increases with wind speed because of increasing spray-mediated transfer and also depends on surface temperature and atmospheric stratification. The analysis thereby reveals as fallacious several assumptions that are common in air–sea interaction research—especially in high winds. For instance, CKN10, CEN10, and CHN10 are not constants; they are not even single-valued functions of wind speed, nor must they increase monotonically with wind speed if spray-mediated transfer is important. Moreover, the ratio CKN10/CDN10, where CDN10 is the neutral-stability, 10-m drag coefficient, does not need to be greater than 0.75 at all wind speeds, as many have inferred from Emanuel’s seminal paper in this journal. Data from the literature and from the Coupled Boundary Layers and Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) hurricane experiment tend to corroborate these results.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Edgar L Andreas, NorthWest Research Associates, Inc. (Seattle Division), 25 Eagle Ridge, Lebanon, NH 03766–1900. E-mail: eandreas@nwra.com
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