Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2011

Abstract

A neutrally stratified turbulent airflow over a very young sea surface at a high-wind condition was investigated using large-eddy simulations. In such a state, the dominant drag at the sea surface occurs over breaking waves, and the relationship between the dominant drag and local instantaneous surface wind is highly stochastic and anisotropic. To model such a relationship, a bottom boundary stress parameterization was proposed for the very young sea surface resolving individual breakers. This parameterization was compared to the commonly used parameterization for isotropic surfaces. Over both the young sea and isotropic surfaces, the main near-surface turbulence structure was wall-attached, large-scale, quasi-streamwise vortices. Over the young sea surface, these vortices were more intense, and the near-surface mean velocity gradient was smaller. This is because the isotropic surface weakens the swirling motions of the vortices by spanwise drag. In contrast, the young sea surface exerts little spanwise drag and develops more intense vortices, resulting in greater turbulence and mixing. The vigorous turbulence decreases the mean velocity gradient in the roughness sublayer below the logarithmic layer. Thus, the enhancement of the air–sea momentum flux (drag coefficient) due to breaking waves is caused not only by the streamwise form drag over individual breakers but also by the enhanced vortices. Furthermore, contrary to an assumption used in existing wave boundary layer models, the wave effect may extend as high as 10–20 times the breaking wave height.

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