IGPP Seminar Series

Dynamics of Winds and Currents Coupled to Surface Gravity Waves

by Jim McWilliams


I will discuss the coupling processes between surface gravity waves and adjacent winds and currents in turbulent boundary layers. These processes mediate exchanges of momentum, heat, and gases between the atmosphere and ocean and thus are of global significance for climate. Surface waves grow primarily by pressure form stress from air flow over the wave forms, and they dissipate in the open sea by wave breaking that injects and stirs momentum, energy, and bubbles into the ocean. Wave motions pump wind eddies that control fluxes across the lower atmosphere. Flow separation occurs behind steep wave crests, and at high winds crests flatten into spume that diminishes the drag coefficient. In the ocean the Lagrangian-mean wave velocity, Stokes drift, induces a vortex force and material transport. These generate Langmuir circulations penetrating throughout the boundary layer and enhancing entrainment at the stratified interior interface in combination with other turbulent eddies and inertial-shear instability. These effects are particularly dramatic in hurricanes.
Tuesday, 02 March 2010
3853 Slichter Hall
Refreshments at 3:45 PM
Lecture at 4:00 PM