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Christopher J. Zappa, Michael L. Banner, Russel P. Morison, and Sophia E. Brumer


A spectral framework for quantifying the geometric/kinematic and dynamic/energetic properties of breaking ocean waves was proposed by Phillips in 1985. Phillips assumed a constant breaking strength coefficient to link the kinematic/geometric breaking crest properties to the associated excess energy and momentum fluxes from the waves to the upper ocean. However, a scale-dependent (spectral) breaking strength coefficient is needed, but is unavailable from measurements. In this paper, the feasibility of a parametric mean effective breaking strength coefficient valid for a wide range of sea states is investigated. All available ocean breaking wave datasets were analyzed and complemented with wave model behavior. Robust evidence is found supporting a single linear parameter relationship between the effective breaking strength and wave age or significant wave steepness. Envisaged applications for the effective breaking strength are described.

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Peter P. Sullivan, Michael L. Banner, Russel P. Morison, and William L. Peirson


Turbulent flow over strongly forced steep steady and unsteady waves is simulated using large-eddy simulation (LES) with time t and space x varying wave height h(x, t) imposed as a lower boundary condition. With steady waves, h(x, t) is based on measurements of incipient and active breaking waves collected in a wind-wave flume, while a numerical wave code is used to generate an unsteady evolving wave packet (group). Highly intermittent airflow separation is found in the simulations, and the results suggest separation near a wave crest occurs prior to the onset of wave breaking. The form (pressure) drag is most sensitive to the wave slope, and the form drag can contribute as much as 74% to the total stress. Wind and scalar profiles from the LES display log-linear variations above the wave surface; the LES wind profiles are in good agreement with the measurements. The momentum roughness increases as the water surface changes from wind ripples to incipient breaking to active breaking. However, the scalar roughness decreases as the wave surface becomes rougher. This highlights major differences in momentum and scalar transport over a rough wavy surface. For a rapidly evolving, strongly forced wave group, the form drag is highly correlated with the wave slope, and intermittent separation is found early in the packet evolution when the local wave slope −∂h/∂x(x, t) ≥ 0.22. The packet root-mean-square wave slope is 0.084, but the form drag fraction is 2.4 times larger than a comparably forced steady wave. Thus, a passing wave group can induce unsteadiness in the wind stress.

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