Microscale wave breaking and air-water gas transfer

Zappa, Christopher J.; Asher, W. E.; Jessup, A. T.

Laboratory results showing that the air-water gas transfer velocity k is correlated with mean square wave slope have been cited as evidence that a wave-related mechanism regulates k at low to moderate wind speeds [Jähne et al., 1987; Bock et al., 1999]. Csanady [1990] has modeled the effect of microscale wave breaking on air-water gas transfer with the result that k is proportional to the fractional surface area covered by surface renewal generated during the breaking process. In this report we investigate the role of microscale wave breaking in gas transfer by determining the correlation between k and AB, the fractional area coverage of microscale breaking waves. Simultaneous, colocated infrared (IR) and wave slope imagery is used to verify that AB detected using IR techniques corresponds to the fraction of surface area covered by surface renewal in the wakes of microscale breaking waves. Using measurements of k and AB made at the University of Washington wind-wave tank at wind speeds from 4.6 to 10.7 m s−1, we show that k is linearly correlated with AB, regardless of the presence of surfactants. This result is consistent with Csanady's [1990] model and implies that microscale wave breaking is likely a fundamental physical mechanism contributing to gas transfer.


  • thumnail for Zappa_et_al-2001-Journal_of_Geophysical_Research-_Solid_Earth__1978-2012_.pdf Zappa_et_al-2001-Journal_of_Geophysical_Research-_Solid_Earth__1978-2012_.pdf application/pdf 786 KB Download File

Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
American Geophysical Union
Published Here
March 7, 2016