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Aqueous surface layer flows induced by microscale breaking wind waves

  • WILLIAM L. PEIRSON (a1) (a2) and MICHAEL L. BANNER (a1)

Microscale breaking wind waves cover much of the surface of open waters exposed to moderate wind forcing. Recent studies indicate that understanding the nature and key features of the surface skin flows associated with these small waves is fundamental to explaining the dramatic enhancement of constituent exchange that occurs in their presence. We describe a laboratory study in which velocity measurements were made within a few hundred micrometres of the surface of microscale breaking wind waves without bubble entrainment, using flow visualization and particle image velocimetry (PIV) techniques for a range of wind speed and fetch conditions. Our measurements show that for each experiment, the mean surface drift directly induced by the wind on the upwind faces and crests of these waves is ($0.23\,{\pm}\,0.02$)${u}^a_\ast$ in the trough increasing to ($0.33\,{\pm}\,0.07$)${u}^a_\ast$ at the crest, where ${u}^a_\ast$ is the wind friction velocity. About these mean values, there is substantial variability in the instantaneous surface velocity up to approximately ${\pm}\,0.17{u}^a_\ast$ in the trough and ${\pm}\,0.37{u}^a_\ast$ at the crest. This variability can be attributed primarily to the modulation of the wave field, with additional contributions arising from fluctuations in wind forcing and near-surface turbulence generated by shear in the drift layer or by the influence of transient microscale breaking.

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Journal of Fluid Mechanics
  • ISSN: 0022-1120
  • EISSN: 1469-7645
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics
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