The Dynamical Coupling of Wind-Waves and Atmospheric Turbulence: A Review of Theoretical and Phenomenological Models

Type Article
Acceptance Date 2021 IN PRESS
Language English
Author(s) Ayet AlexORCID1, 2, Chapron BertrandORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ. Brest, CNRS, IRD, Ifremer, Laboratoire d’Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS), IUEM, Université de Bretagne, Brest, France
2 : LMD/IPSL, CNRS, École Normale Supérieure, PSL Research University, Paris, France
Source Boundary-Layer Meteorology (0006-8314) (Springer Science and Business Media LLC) In Press
DOI 10.1007/s10546-021-00666-6
Keyword(s) Air–sea fluxes, Wall-bounded turbulence, Wave boundary layer, Wave growth
Abstract

When wind blows over the ocean, short wind-waves (of wavelength smaller than 10 m) are generated, rapidly reaching an equilibrium with the overlying turbulence (at heights lower than 10 m). Understanding this equilibrium is key to many applications since it determines (i) air–sea fluxes of heat, momentum and gas, essential for numerical models; (ii) energy loss from wind to waves, which regulates how swell is generated and how energy is transferred to the ocean mixed layer and; (iii) the ocean surface roughness, visible from remote sensing measurements. Here we review phenomenological models describing this equilibrium: these models couple a turbulence kinetic energy and wave action budget through several wave-growth processes, including airflow separation events induced by breaking waves. Even though the models aim at reproducing measurements of air–sea fluxes and wave growth, some of the observed variability is still unexplained. Hence, after reviewing several state-of-the-art phenomenological models, we discuss recent numerical experiments in order to provide hints about future improvements. We suggest three main directions, which should be addressed both through dedicated experiments and theory: (i) a better quantification of the variability wind-wave growth and of the role played by the modulation of short and breaking wind-waves by long wind-waves; (ii) an improved understanding of the imprint of wind-waves on turbulent coherent structures and; (iii) a quantification of the interscale interactions for a realistic wind-wave sea, where wind-and-wave coupling processes coexist at multiple time and space scales.

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