Air–Sea Interaction in the Southern Ocean: Exploring the Height of the Wave Boundary Layer at the Air–Sea Interface

Cifuentes-Lorenzen, Alejandro; Edson, James B.; Zappa, Christopher J.

We investigate the momentum and energy exchange across the wave boundary layer (WBL). Directly at the air–sea interface, we test three wave-growth parametrizations by comparing estimates of the wave-induced momentum flux derived from wave spectra with direct covariance estimates of the momentum flux. An exponential decay is used to describe the vertical structure of the wave-induced momentum in the atmospheric WBL through use of a decay rate, a function of the dimensionless decay rate and wavenumber (A = α k). The decay rate is varied to minimize the difference between the energy extracted from the WBL and the energy flux computed from wave spectra using our preferred wave-growth parametrization. For wave ages (i.e. the peak phase speed to atmospheric friction velocity ratio) in the range 15<cp/u∗<35 we are able to balance these two estimates to within 10%. The decay rate is used to approximate the WBL height as the height to which the wave-induced flux is 0.1 of its surface value and the WBL height determined this way is found to be between 1–3 m. Finally, we define an effective phase speed with which to parametrize the energy flux for comparison with earlier work, which we ultimately attempt to parametrize as a function of wind forcing.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Cifuentes-Lorenzen_2018_BLM.pdf Cifuentes-Lorenzen_2018_BLM.pdf application/pdf 1.16 MB Download File

Also Published In

Boundary-Layer Meteorology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
January 14, 2022