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Tetsu Hara, Erik J. Bock, James B. Edson, and Wade R. McGillis

Abstract

Observations of wind-generated gravity–capillary waves have been made during two recent field programs in coastal environments. The results of wave slope spectra on clean water show a well-defined correlation with the wind friction velocity. However, spectral values at higher wavenumbers (above 200 rad m−1) are significantly higher than previous laboratory results. In the presence of surface films wave spectra may decrease by more than one order of magnitude at lower wind stresses. The dispersion characteristics of short waves vary markedly depending on the wavenumber, the wind stress, and the surface chemical condition. Some results in the presence of surface films at intermediate winds show much higher apparent phase speeds than the theoretical dispersion relation. This may be because of an enhanced near-surface current or because of the relative increase of wave energy that is phase-locked to longer steep gravity waves.

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James Edson, Timothy Crawford, Jerry Crescenti, Tom Farrar, Nelson Frew, Greg Gerbi, Costas Helmis, Tihomir Hristov, Djamal Khelif, Andrew Jessup, Haf Jonsson, Ming Li, Larry Mahrt, Wade McGillis, Albert Plueddemann, Lian Shen, Eric Skyllingstad, Tim Stanton, Peter Sullivan, Jielun Sun, John Trowbridge, Dean Vickers, Shouping Wang, Qing Wang, Robert Weller, John Wilkin, Albert J. Williams III, D. K. P. Yue, and Chris Zappa

The Office of Naval Research's Coupled Boundary Layers and Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) program is being conducted to investigate the processes that couple the marine boundary layers and govern the exchange of heat, mass, and momentum across the air–sea interface. CBLAST-LOW was designed to investigate these processes at the low-wind extreme where the processes are often driven or strongly modulated by buoyant forcing. The focus was on conditions ranging from negligible wind stress, where buoyant forcing dominates, up to wind speeds where wave breaking and Langmuir circulations play a significant role in the exchange processes. The field program provided observations from a suite of platforms deployed in the coastal ocean south of Martha's Vineyard. Highlights from the measurement campaigns include direct measurement of the momentum and heat fluxes on both sides of the air–sea interface using a specially constructed Air–Sea Interaction Tower (ASIT), and quantification of regional oceanic variability over scales of O(1–104 mm) using a mesoscale mooring array, aircraft-borne remote sensors, drifters, and ship surveys. To our knowledge, the former represents the first successful attempt to directly and simultaneously measure the heat and momentum exchange on both sides of the air–sea interface. The latter provided a 3D picture of the oceanic boundary layer during the month-long main experiment. These observations have been combined with numerical models and direct numerical and large-eddy simulations to investigate the processes that couple the atmosphere and ocean under these conditions. For example, the oceanic measurements have been used in the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) to investigate the 3D evolution of regional ocean thermal stratification. The ultimate goal of these investigations is to incorporate improved parameterizations of these processes in coupled models such as the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) to improve marine forecasts of wind, waves, and currents.

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