Field measurements and scaling of ocean surface wave-breaking statistics

TitleField measurements and scaling of ocean surface wave-breaking statistics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSutherland P., Melville W.K
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume40
Pagination3074-3079
Date Published2013/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0094-8276
Accession NumberWOS:000321951300035
Keywordsbreaking waves; deep-water; dissipation; energy-dissipation; infrared; range; stereo; upper ocean turbulence; whitecap; wind-waves
Abstract

[1] Deep-water breaking waves provide a mechanism for mass, momentum, and energy transfer between the atmosphere and ocean. Microscale breaking is particularly important, but notoriously difficult to measure in the field. In this paper, measurements from a new technique, using a stereo pair of long-wave infrared cameras to reconstruct the sea surface shape and velocity field, are presented. Breakers are detected using an image texture-based algorithm and then tracked on the reconstructed surface. These waves range from large air-entraining breakers to microbreakers that are undetectable by traditional visible video-based techniques. This allows measurements of breaker length distributions, (c), that extend to velocities near the gravity-capillary transition. These distributions are compared with measurements from the literature and from visible video imagery. A nondimensional scaling is proposed which collapses (c). Finally, estimates of energy dissipation and stress based on (c) are found to agree well with wave energy dissipation and wind stress models.

DOI10.1002/grl.50584
Integrated Research Themes: 
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