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Michael L. Banner, Christopher J. Zappa, and Johannes R. Gemmrich

Abstract

There has been a recent upsurge in interest in quantifying kinematic, dynamic, and energetic properties of wave breaking in the open ocean, especially in severe sea states. The underpinning observational and modeling framework is provided by the seminal paper of O. M. Phillips. In this note, a fundamental issue contributing to the scatter in results between investigators is highlighted. This issue relates to the choice of the independent variable used in the expression for the spectral density of the mean breaking crest length per unit area. This note investigates the consequences of the different choices of independent variable presently used by various investigators for validating Phillips model predictions for the spectral density of the breaking crest length per unit area and the associated spectral breaking strength coefficient. These spectral measures have a central role in inferring the associated turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate and the momentum flux to the upper ocean from breaking wave observations.

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Andrew J. Wells, Claudia Cenedese, J. Thomas Farrar, and Christopher J. Zappa

Abstract

The aqueous thermal boundary layer near to the ocean surface, or skin layer, has thickness O(1 mm) and plays an important role in controlling the exchange of heat between the atmosphere and the ocean. Theoretical arguments and experimental measurements are used to investigate the dynamics of the skin layer under the influence of an upwelling flow, which is imposed in addition to free convection below a cooled water surface. Previous theories of straining flow in the skin layer are considered and a simple extension of a surface straining model is posed to describe the combination of turbulence and an upwelling flow. An additional theory is also proposed, conceptually based on the buoyancy-driven instability of a laminar straining flow cooled from above. In all three theories considered two distinct regimes are observed for different values of the Péclet number, which characterizes the ratio of advection to diffusion within the skin layer. For large Péclet numbers, the upwelling flow dominates and increases the free surface temperature, or skin temperature, to follow the scaling expected for a laminar straining flow. For small Péclet numbers, it is shown that any flow that is steady or varies over long time scales produces only a small change in skin temperature by direct straining of the skin layer. Experimental measurements demonstrate that a strong upwelling flow increases the skin temperature and suggest that the mean change in skin temperature with Péclet number is consistent with the theoretical trends for large Péclet number flow. However, all of the models considered consistently underpredict the measured skin temperature, both with and without an upwelling flow, possibly a result of surfactant effects not included in the models.

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Alejandro Cifuentes-Lorenzen, James B. Edson, Christopher J. Zappa, and Ludovic Bariteau

Abstract

Obtaining accurate measurements of wave statistics from research vessels remains a challenge due to the platform motion. One principal correction is the removal of ship heave and Doppler effects from point measurements. Here, open-ocean wave measurements were collected using a laser altimeter, a Doppler radar microwave sensor, a radar-based system, and inertial measurement units. Multiple instruments were deployed to capture the low- and high-frequency sea surface displacements. Doppler and motion correction algorithms were applied to obtain a full 1D (0.035–1.3 ± 0.2 Hz) wave spectrum. The radar-based system combined with the laser altimeter provided the optimal low- and high-frequency combination, producing a frequency spectrum in the range from 0.035 to 1.2 Hz for cruising speeds ≤3 m s−1 with a spectral rolloff of f −4 Hz and noise floor of −20/−30 dB. While on station, the significant wave height estimates were comparable within 10%–15% among instrumentation. Discrepancies in the total energy and in the spectral shape between instruments arise when the ship is in motion. These differences can be quantified using the spectral behavior of the measurements, accounting for aliasing and Doppler corrections. The inertial sensors provided information on the amplitude of the ship’s modulation transfer function, which was estimated to be ~1.3 ± 0.2 while on station and increased while underway [2.1 at ship-over-ground (SOG) speed; 4.3 m s−1]. The correction scheme presented here is adequate for measurements collected at cruising speeds of 3 m s−1 or less. At speeds greater than 5 m s−1, the motion and Doppler corrections are not sufficient to correct the observed spectral degradation.

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Björn Lund, Christopher J. Zappa, Hans C. Graber, and Alejandro Cifuentes-Lorenzen

Abstract

Surface wave measurements from ships pose difficulties because of motion contamination. Cifuentes-Lorenzen et al. analyzed laser altimeter and marine X-band radar (MR) wave measurements from the Southern Ocean Gas Exchange Experiment (SOGasEx). They found that wave measurements from both sensors deteriorate precipitously at ship speeds 3 m s−1. This study demonstrates that MR can yield accurate wave frequency–direction spectra independent of ship motion. It is based on the same shipborne SOGasEx wave data but uses the MR wave retrieval method proposed by Lund et al. and a novel empirical transfer function (ETF). The ETF eliminates biases in the MR wave spectra by redistributing energy from low to high frequencies. The resulting MR wave frequency–direction spectra are shown to agree well with laser altimeter wave frequency spectra from times when the ship was near stationary and with WAVEWATCH III (WW3) model wave parameters over the full study period.

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

Abstract

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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Sophia E. Brumer, Christopher J. Zappa, Ian M. Brooks, Hitoshi Tamura, Scott M. Brown, Byron W. Blomquist, Christopher W. Fairall, and Alejandro Cifuentes-Lorenzen

Abstract

Concurrent wavefield and turbulent flux measurements acquired during the Southern Ocean (SO) Gas Exchange (GasEx) and the High Wind Speed Gas Exchange Study (HiWinGS) projects permit evaluation of the dependence of the whitecap coverage W on wind speed, wave age, wave steepness, mean square slope, and wind-wave and breaking Reynolds numbers. The W was determined from over 600 high-frequency visible imagery recordings of 20 min each. Wave statistics were computed from in situ and remotely sensed data as well as from a WAVEWATCH III hindcast. The first shipborne estimates of W under sustained 10-m neutral wind speeds U 10N of 25 m s−1 were obtained during HiWinGS. These measurements suggest that W levels off at high wind speed, not exceeding 10% when averaged over 20 min. Combining wind speed and wave height in the form of the wind-wave Reynolds number resulted in closely agreeing models for both datasets, individually and combined. These are also in good agreement with two previous studies. When expressing W in terms of wavefield statistics only or wave age, larger scatter is observed and/or there is little agreement between SO GasEx, HiWinGS, and previously published data. The wind speed–only parameterizations deduced from the SO GasEx and HiWinGS datasets agree closely and capture more of the observed W variability than Reynolds number parameterizations. However, these wind speed–only models do not agree as well with previous studies than the wind-wave Reynolds numbers.

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Seth F. Zippel, J. Thomas Farrar, Christopher J. Zappa, Una Miller, Louis St. Laurent, Takashi Ijichi, Robert A. Weller, Leah McRaven, Sven Nylund, and Deborah Le Bel

Abstract

Upper-ocean turbulence is central to the exchanges of heat, momentum, and gases across the air–sea interface and therefore plays a large role in weather and climate. Current understanding of upper-ocean mixing is lacking, often leading models to misrepresent mixed layer depths and sea surface temperature. In part, progress has been limited by the difficulty of measuring turbulence from fixed moorings that can simultaneously measure surface fluxes and upper-ocean stratification over long time periods. Here we introduce a direct wavenumber method for measuring turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) dissipation rates ϵ from long-enduring moorings using pulse-coherent ADCPs. We discuss optimal programming of the ADCPs, a robust mechanical design for use on a mooring to maximize data return, and data processing techniques including phase-ambiguity unwrapping, spectral analysis, and a correction for instrument response. The method was used in the Salinity Processes Upper-Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) to collect two year-long datasets. We find that the mooring-derived TKE dissipation rates compare favorably to estimates made nearby from a microstructure shear probe mounted to a glider during its two separate 2-week missions for O(10−8) ≤ ϵO(10−5) m2 s−3. Periods of disagreement between turbulence estimates from the two platforms coincide with differences in vertical temperature profiles, which may indicate that barrier layers can substantially modulate upper-ocean turbulence over horizontal scales of 1–10 km. We also find that dissipation estimates from two different moorings at 12.5 and at 7 m are in agreement with the surface buoyancy flux during periods of strong nighttime convection, consistent with classic boundary layer theory.

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James N. Moum, Simon P. de Szoeke, William D. Smyth, James B. Edson, H. Langley DeWitt, Aurélie J. Moulin, Elizabeth J. Thompson, Christopher J. Zappa, Steven A. Rutledge, Richard H. Johnson, and Christopher W. Fairall

The life cycles of three Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) events were observed over the Indian Ocean as part of the Dynamics of the MJO (DYNAMO) experiment. During November 2011 near 0°, 80°E, the site of the research vessel Roger Revelle, the authors observed intense multiscale interactions within an MJO convective envelope, including exchanges between synoptic, meso, convective, and turbulence scales in both atmosphere and ocean and complicated by a developing tropical cyclone. Embedded within the MJO event, two bursts of sustained westerly wind (>10 m s−1; 0–8-km height) and enhanced precipitation passed over the ship, each propagating eastward as convectively coupled Kelvin waves at an average speed of 8.6 m s−1. The ocean response was rapid, energetic, and complex. The Yoshida–Wyrtki jet at the equator accelerated from less than 0.5 m s−1 to more than 1.5 m s−1 in 2 days. This doubled the eastward transport along the ocean's equatorial waveguide. Oceanic (subsurface) turbulent heat fluxes were comparable to atmospheric surface fluxes, thus playing a comparable role in cooling the sea surface. The sustained eastward surface jet continued to energize shear-driven entrainment at its base (near 100-m depth) after the MJO wind bursts subsided, thereby further modifying sea surface temperature for a period of several weeks after the storms had passed.

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Kaylan Randolph, Heidi M. Dierssen, Alejandro Cifuentes-Lorenzen, William M. Balch, Edward C. Monahan, Christopher J. Zappa, Dave T. Drapeau, and Bruce Bowler

Abstract

Traditional methods for measuring whitecap coverage using digital video systems mounted to measure a large footprint can miss features that do not produce a high enough contrast to the background. Here, a method for accurately measuring the fractional coverage, intensity, and decay time of whitecaps using above-water radiometry is presented. The methodology was developed using data collected in the Southern Ocean under a wide range of wind and wave conditions. Whitecap quantities were obtained by employing a magnitude threshold based on the interquartile range of the radiance or reflectance signal from a single channel. Breaking intensity and decay time were produced from the integration of and the exponential fit to radiance or reflectance over the lifetime of the whitecap. When using the lowest magnitude threshold possible, radiometric fractional whitecap coverage retrievals were consistently higher than fractional coverage from high-resolution digital images, perhaps because the radiometer captures more of the decaying bubble plume area that is difficult to detect with photography. Radiometrically obtained whitecap measurements are presented in the context of concurrently measured meteorological (e.g., wind speed) and oceanographic (e.g., wave) data. The optimal fit of the radiometrically estimated whitecap coverage to the instantaneous wind speed, determined using robust linear least squares, showed a near-cubic dependence. Increasing the magnitude threshold for whitecap detection from 2 to 4 times the interquartile range produced a wind speed–whitecap relationship most comparable to the concurrently collected fractional coverage from digital imagery and previously published wind speed–whitecap parameterizations.

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Shuyi S. Chen, Brandon W. Kerns, Nick Guy, David P. Jorgensen, Julien Delanoë, Nicolas Viltard, Christopher J. Zappa, Falko Judt, Chia-Ying Lee, and Ajda Savarin

Abstract

One of the most challenging problems in predicting the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is the initiation of large-scale convective activity associated with the MJO over the tropical Indian Ocean. The lack of observations is a major obstacle. The Dynamics of the MJO (DYNAMO) field campaign collected unprecedented observations from air-, land-, and ship-based platforms from October 2011 to February 2012. Here we provide an overview of the aircraft observations in DYNAMO, which captured an MJO initiation event from November to December 2011. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) WP-3D aircraft was stationed at Diego Garcia and the French Falcon 20 aircraft on Gan Island in the Maldives. Observations from the two aircraft provide a unique dataset of three-dimensional structure of convective cloud systems and their environment from the flight level, airborne Doppler radar, microphysics probes, ocean surface imaging, global positioning system (GPS) dropsonde, and airborne expendable bathythermograph (AXBT) data. The aircraft observations revealed interactions among dry air, the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), convective cloud systems, and air–sea interaction induced by convective cold pools, which may play important roles in the multiscale processes of MJO initiation. This overview focuses on some key aspects of the aircraft observations that contribute directly to better understanding of the interactions among convective cloud systems, environmental moisture, and the upper ocean during the MJO initiation over the tropical Indian Ocean. Special emphasis is on the distinct characteristics of convective cloud systems, environmental moisture and winds, air–sea fluxes, and convective cold pools during the convectively suppressed, transition/onset, and active phases of the MJO.

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