Storm waves focusing and steepening in the Agulhas current: Satellite observations and modeling

Type Article
Date 2018-10
Language English
Author(s) Quilfen Yves1, Yurovskaya M.2, 3, Chapron Bertrand1, 3, Ardhuin FabriceORCID4
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Brest, IFREMER, CNRS, IRD,LOPS, Brest, France.
2 : Marine Hydrophys Inst RAS, Sebastopol, Russia.
3 : Russian State Hydrometeorol Univ, St Petersburg, Russia.
Source Remote Sensing Of Environment (0034-4257) (Elsevier Science Inc), 2018-10 , Vol. 216 , P. 561-571
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2018.07.020
WOS© Times Cited 3
Keyword(s) Extreme waves, Wave-current interactions, Satellite altimeter, SAR

Strong ocean currents can modify the height and shape of ocean waves, possibly causing extreme sea states in particular conditions. The risk of extreme waves is a known hazard in the shipping routes crossing some of the main current systems. Modeling surface current interactions in standard wave numerical models is an active area of research that benefits from the increased availability and accuracy of satellite observations. We report a typical case of a swell system propagating in the Agulhas current, using wind and sea state measurements from several satellites, jointly with state of the art analytical and numerical modeling of wave-current interactions. In particular, Synthetic Aperture Radar and altimeter measurements are used to show the evolution of the swell train and resulting local extreme waves. A ray tracing analysis shows that the significant wave height variability at scales <~100 km is well associated with the current vorticity patterns. Predictions of the WAVEWATCH III numerical model in a version that accounts for wave-current interactions are consistent with observations, although their effects are still under-predicted in the present configuration. From altimeter measurements, very large significant wave height gradients are shown to be well captured, and also associated with the current vorticity patterns at global scale.

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