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Airborne Observations of Fetch-Limited Waves in the Gulf of Tehuantepec

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  • 1 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

The authors present airborne observations of fetch-limited waves during strong offshore winds in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The measurements, collected over a wide range of fetches, include one- and two-dimensional surface wavenumber spectra and turbulent fluxes in winds up to 25 m s−1. The evolution of the wave spectra is in good agreement with the fetch relationships from previous observations. The tails of the observed one-dimensional k1 spectra, in the dominant wave direction, exhibit a power law over a wide range of wavenumbers. The authors present the first quantification of the transition between the equilibrium and saturation ranges for the omnidirectional spectrum in the wavenumber domain. The energy density within the equilibrium range shows a dependence on the wave age. At wavenumbers higher than the spectral peak, the width of the spectrum in the direction orthogonal to the dominant waves is nearly independent of the wave age. However, in the azimuthal direction, the spreading of the spectrum decreases with increasing effective wave age. The bimodal directional distribution, characterized by the lobe amplitude and separation, shows a consistent scaling with both parameters collapsing when scaled by the square root of the wave age. The one-dimensional fetch-limited k1 spectrum is well parameterized with dependence on the effective fetch and friction velocity. At higher wavenumbers within the saturation range, although the one-dimensional saturation in the dominant wave direction is independent of the wind forcing, the saturation in the crosswind direction is weakly dependent on the effective wave age and on average 30% larger than that in the downwind direction. The results are discussed in the context of previous observations and current numerical wind-wave prediction models.

Corresponding author address: Leonel Romero, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0230. Email: leromero@ucsd.edu

Abstract

The authors present airborne observations of fetch-limited waves during strong offshore winds in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The measurements, collected over a wide range of fetches, include one- and two-dimensional surface wavenumber spectra and turbulent fluxes in winds up to 25 m s−1. The evolution of the wave spectra is in good agreement with the fetch relationships from previous observations. The tails of the observed one-dimensional k1 spectra, in the dominant wave direction, exhibit a power law over a wide range of wavenumbers. The authors present the first quantification of the transition between the equilibrium and saturation ranges for the omnidirectional spectrum in the wavenumber domain. The energy density within the equilibrium range shows a dependence on the wave age. At wavenumbers higher than the spectral peak, the width of the spectrum in the direction orthogonal to the dominant waves is nearly independent of the wave age. However, in the azimuthal direction, the spreading of the spectrum decreases with increasing effective wave age. The bimodal directional distribution, characterized by the lobe amplitude and separation, shows a consistent scaling with both parameters collapsing when scaled by the square root of the wave age. The one-dimensional fetch-limited k1 spectrum is well parameterized with dependence on the effective fetch and friction velocity. At higher wavenumbers within the saturation range, although the one-dimensional saturation in the dominant wave direction is independent of the wind forcing, the saturation in the crosswind direction is weakly dependent on the effective wave age and on average 30% larger than that in the downwind direction. The results are discussed in the context of previous observations and current numerical wind-wave prediction models.

Corresponding author address: Leonel Romero, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0230. Email: leromero@ucsd.edu

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