Atmosphere-ocean Interactions in Swell Dominated Wave Fields

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Ocean wind waves represent the atmosphere-ocean boundary, playing a central role in the air-sea exchanging processes. Heat, mass and momentum are transferred across this boundary, with waves mediating the exchange of principally the momentum between the winds and the ocean surface. During the generation process waves are called wind sea. When they leave their generation area or outrun their generating wind they are called swell. The wave field can be said to be dominated either by wind sea or swell. Depending on the wave regime the momentum and energy exchanging processes and the degree of coupling between the waves and the wind is different. During the growing process, waves act as a drag on the surface wind and the momentum flux is directed downward. When swell dominates the wave field a reverse momentum flux mechanism occurs triggered by swell waves traveling considerably faster than the surface winds. The momentum transfer is now directed from the waves to the atmosphere, and takes place because swell waves perform work on the atmosphere as part of their attenuation process. This upward momentum transfer has an impact on the lower atmosphere dynamics, and on the overall turbulence structure of the boundary layer.A detailed qualitative climatology of the global wind sea and swell fields from wave reanalysis data, is presented, revealing a very strong swell dominance of the World Ocean. The areas of larger potential impact of swell on the atmosphere, from a climatological point of view, are also studied. A model that reproduces the swell impact on the lower atmosphere dynamics, conceptually based on the energy transfer from the waves to the atmosphere, is presented – a  new parameterization for the wave-induced stress is also proposed. The model results are compared with field observations. A modeling simulation, using a coupled wave-atmosphere model system, is used to study the impact of swell in a regional climate model, by using different formulations on how to introduce the wave state effect in the modeling system.

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