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Numerical Modeling 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

During the Gulf of Tehuantepec Experiment (GOTEX), conducted in February 2004, surface-wave measurements were collected using a scanning lidar [Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM)] on the National Science Foundation (NSF)/NCAR C-130 aircraft during fetch-limited conditions with winds speeds ranging from 10 to 25 m s−1. The authors present direct comparisons between the observed evolution of the wave field and numerical simulations using a parameterization of the wave energy dissipation. For low and intermediate wavenumbers, the dissipation corresponds to the saturation-based parameterization by Alves and Banner. However, at higher wavenumbers, their formulation cannot maintain saturation of the spectrum. Here, the authors use a dissipation term that forces the spectrum to match the empirical degree of saturation and explicitly balances the wind input and the nonlinear energy fluxes. All model simulations were carried out with “exact” computations of the nonlinear energy transfer because of four-wave resonant interactions and two empirical wind input functions. There is a good agreement for the integral parameters between the observations and the simulations, with root-mean-square (rms) errors between 5% and 12%. The tail of the computed omnidirectional wavenumber spectrum ϕ(k) can be approximated by two ranges: an equilibrium range, where ϕk−5/2, and a saturation range, where ϕ = Bk−3, where B is the empirically determined degree of saturation. However, within the equilibrium range, the modeled ϕ overestimates the energy with rms errors between 20% and 50%, and the computed spectra are found to be narrower than the observations by about 10°. Similarly, the modeled bimodal directional distributions, at wavenumbers higher than the spectral peak, exhibit lobe separations and amplitudes that are consistently smaller than the observations. The lobe separation of the bimodal directional distribution for all simulations approximately scales with the square root of the wave age, which is consistent with the observations. The reasons for differences between the measurements and the simulations are discussed.

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

Abstract

During the Gulf of Tehuantepec Experiment (GOTEX), conducted in February 2004, surface-wave measurements were collected using a scanning lidar [Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM)] on the National Science Foundation (NSF)/NCAR C-130 aircraft during fetch-limited conditions with winds speeds ranging from 10 to 25 m s−1. The authors present direct comparisons between the observed evolution of the wave field and numerical simulations using a parameterization of the wave energy dissipation. For low and intermediate wavenumbers, the dissipation corresponds to the saturation-based parameterization by Alves and Banner. However, at higher wavenumbers, their formulation cannot maintain saturation of the spectrum. Here, the authors use a dissipation term that forces the spectrum to match the empirical degree of saturation and explicitly balances the wind input and the nonlinear energy fluxes. All model simulations were carried out with “exact” computations of the nonlinear energy transfer because of four-wave resonant interactions and two empirical wind input functions. There is a good agreement for the integral parameters between the observations and the simulations, with root-mean-square (rms) errors between 5% and 12%. The tail of the computed omnidirectional wavenumber spectrum ϕ(k) can be approximated by two ranges: an equilibrium range, where ϕk−5/2, and a saturation range, where ϕ = Bk−3, where B is the empirically determined degree of saturation. However, within the equilibrium range, the modeled ϕ overestimates the energy with rms errors between 20% and 50%, and the computed spectra are found to be narrower than the observations by about 10°. Similarly, the modeled bimodal directional distributions, at wavenumbers higher than the spectral peak, exhibit lobe separations and amplitudes that are consistently smaller than the observations. The lobe separation of the bimodal directional distribution for all simulations approximately scales with the square root of the wave age, which is consistent with the observations. The reasons for differences between the measurements and the simulations are discussed.

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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