Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2013

Abstract

The effects of breaking waves on near-surface wind turbulence and drag coefficient are investigated using large-eddy simulation. The impact of intermittent and transient wave breaking events (over a range of scales) is modeled as localized form drag, which generates airflow separation bubbles downstream. The simulations are performed for very young sea conditions under high winds, comparable to previous laboratory experiments in hurricane-strength winds. The results for the drag coefficient in high winds range between about 0.002 and 0.003. In such conditions more than 90% of the total air–sea momentum flux is due to the form drag of breakers; that is, the contributions of the nonbreaking wave form drag and the surface viscous stress are small. Detailed analysis shows that the breaker form drag impedes the shear production of the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) near the surface and, instead, produces a large amount of small-scale wake turbulence by transferring energy from large-scale motions (such as mean wind and gusts). This process shortcuts the inertial energy cascade and results in large TKE dissipation (integrated over the surface layer) normalized by friction velocity cubed. Consequently, the large production of wake turbulence by breakers in high winds results in the small drag coefficient obtained in this study. The results also suggest that common parameterizations for the mean wind profile and the TKE dissipation inside the wave boundary layer, used in previous Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes models, may not be valid.

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