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Measuring turbulent kinetic energy dissipation at a wavy sea surface

TitleMeasuring turbulent kinetic energy dissipation at a wavy sea surface
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSutherland P., Melville W.K
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Date Published2015/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0739-0572
Accession NumberWOS:000359565500006
Keywordsbreaking waves; image sequences; layer; motion; ocean; spectra; upper; velocity-field; vorticity; water-waves; wind-waves

Wave breaking is thought to be the dominant mechanism for energy loss by the surface wave field. Breaking results in energetic and highly turbulent velocity fields, concentrated within approximately one wave height of the surface. To make meaningful estimates of wave energy dissipation in the upper ocean, it is then necessary to make accurate measurements of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) dissipation very near the surface. However, the surface wave field makes measurements of turbulence at the air-sea interface challenging since the energy spectrum contains energy from both waves and turbulence over the same range of wavenumbers and frequencies. Furthermore, wave orbital velocities can advect the turbulent wake of instrumentation into the sampling volume of the instrument. In this work a new technique for measuring TKE dissipation at the sea surface that overcomes these difficulties is presented. Using a stereo pair of longwave infrared cameras, it is possible to reconstruct the surface displacement and velocity fields. The vorticity of that velocity field can then be considered to be representative of the rotational turbulence and not the irrotational wave orbital velocities. The turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate can then be calculated by comparing the vorticity spectrum to a universal spectrum. Average surface TKE dissipation calculated in this manner was found to be consistent with near-surface values from the literature, and time-dependent dissipation was found to depend on breaking.

Short TitleJ. Atmos. Ocean. Technol.
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