Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 503–521 | Cite as

Structure of air flow separation over wind wave crests

  • Sanshiro Kawai


Air flow over wind waves generated in a wind-wave tunnel was visualized by numerous tiny suspended particles (zinc stearate), and instantaneous air flow fields over about one wavelength of wind waves were obtained. Air flow separation was detected over the wave crest in about a half of the samples. In such cases, the separation started near the crest about half of the time, with a vortex trapped over the convergence point of the surface flow which appeared at the leeward face of the crest. This structure was much different from a previously imagined picture in which the separation started at the convergence point. The high frequency of its occurrence suggested the stability of this structure. However, even when this structure was clearly seen, the structure behind the vortex to the next wave crest had various patterns. This variety seems to be related to an instability of the high-shear layer accompanied by separation. Other varieties were also seen, such as the occurrence of separation without the above mentioned structure, as well as the existence of non-separated air flow structures. These varieties seem to be related to the variability of individual wind wave crests. An analysis of correlation between the wave form and the air flow structure over it shows that there is a critical value of local gradient of wave form, above which the air flow always separates. This fact suggests a strong coupling between the air and the water, i.e., the local stress exerted on the water surface changes the nature of a wave crest, especially its form, and as a result, the air flow structure over it changes drastically.


Vortex Crest Stearate Suspended Particle Wave Form 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Co 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanshiro Kawai
    • 1
  1. 1.Geophysical Institute, Faculty of Science, Tohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

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