Fluxes and Mixing Processes in the Marine Atmospheric Boundary Layer
Abstract: Atmospheric models are strongly dependent on the turbulent exchange of momentum, sensible heat and moisture (latent heat) at the surface. Oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface and understanding the processes that control air-sea exchange is of great importance in order to predict weather and climate. In the atmosphere, for instance, hurricane development, cyclone intensity and track depend on these processes.Ocean waves constitute an obvious example of air-sea interaction and can cause the air-flow over sea to depend on surface conditions in uniquely different ways compared to boundary layers over land. When waves are generated by wind they are called wind sea or growing sea, and when they leave their generation area or propagate faster than the generating wind they are called swell. The air-sea exchange is mediated by turbulent eddies occurring on many different scales. Field measurements and high-resolution turbulence resolving numerical simulations have here been used to study these processes.The standard method to measure turbulent fluxes is the eddy covariance method. A spatial separation is often used between instruments when measuring scalar flux; this causes an error which was investigated for the first time over sea. The error is typically smaller over ocean than over land, possibly indicating changes in turbulence structure over sea.Established and extended analysis methods to determine the dominant scales of momentum transfer was used to interpret how reduced drag and sometimes net upward momentum flux can persist in the boundary layer indirectly affected by swell. A changed turbulence structure with increased turbulence length scales and more effective mixing was found for swell.A study, using a coupled wave-atmosphere regional climate model, gave a first indication on what impact wave mixing have on atmosphere and wave parameters. Near surface wind speed and wind gradients was affected especially for shallow boundary layers, which typically increased in height from the introduced wave-mixing. A large impact may be expected in regions of the world with predominant swell. The impact of swell waves on air-sea exchange and mixing should be taken into account to develop more reliable coupled Earth system models.
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