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  • Author or Editor: Øyvind Saetra x
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Alvaro Semedo
Øyvind Saetra
Anna Rutgersson
Kimmo K. Kahma
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Heidi Pettersson


Recent field observations and large-eddy simulations have shown that the impact of fast swell on the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) might be stronger than previously assumed. For low to moderate winds blowing in the same direction as the waves, swell propagates faster than the mean wind. The momentum flux above the sea surface will then have two major components: the turbulent shear stress, directed downward, and the swell-induced stress, directed upward. For sufficiently high wave age values, the wave-induced component becomes increasingly dominant, and the total momentum flux will be directed into the atmosphere. Recent field measurements have shown that this upward momentum transfer from the ocean into the atmosphere has a considerable impact on the surface layer flow dynamics and on the turbulence structure of the overall MABL. The vertical wind profile will no longer exhibit a logarithmic shape because an acceleration of the airflow near the surface will take place, generating a low-level wave-driven wind maximum (a wind jet). As waves propagate away from their generation area as swell, some of the wave momentum will be returned to the atmosphere in the form of wave-driven winds.

A model that qualitatively reproduces the wave-following atmospheric flow and the wave-generated wind maximum, as seen from measurements, is proposed. The model assumes a stationary momentum and turbulent kinetic energy balance and uses the dampening of the waves at the surface to describe the momentum flux from the waves to the atmosphere. In this study, simultaneous observations of wind profiles, turbulent fluxes, and wave spectra during swell events are presented and compared with the model. In the absence of an established model for the linear damping ratio during swell conditions, the model is combined with observations to estimate the wave damping. For the cases in which the observations showed a pronounced swell signal and almost no wind waves, the agreement between observed and modeled wind profiles is remarkably good. The resulting attenuation length is found to be relatively short, which suggests that the estimated damping ratios are too large. The authors attribute this, at least partly, to processes not accounted for by the model, such as the existence of an atmospheric background wind. In the model, this extra momentum must be supplied by the waves in terms of a larger damping ratio.

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