Breaking waves enhance the transport of gas, momentum and heat between the atmosphere and ocean, facilitating climate-relevant physical and chemical processes. Despite their substantial physical relevance to climate, contemporary ocean models cannot numerically solve the small-scale boundary layer structure due to computational expenses and will require parameterizations based on relevant field observations. But years of effort have shown that breaking waves and bubble plumes can be difficult to measure, to describe analytically and parameterize using forcing. Because breaking waves have a marked impact on the color of the surface ocean, altering the magnitude and spectral shape of reflected light in unique ways for the submerged air cavity, fresh and decaying foam and entrained bubbles, measurements of ocean color could prove useful as a proxy for the processes associated with wave breaking. Here, using datasets collected from various experiments conducted in estuarine, coastal and open ocean conditions, we have developed ocean color derived metrics to estimate wave driven turbulence at the air sea interface, including the enhancement in turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates, the void fraction of air in water and penetration depth of bubble plumes. These methods serve as an alternative and complementary approach to further elucidating the role and implications of wave breaking dynamics and kinematics at the air-sea interface.
Speaker: Kaylan Randolph, Assistant Research Scientist, California State University Maritime Academy
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