Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 6, Issue 1–2, pp 107–127 | Cite as

On the spectral dissipation of ocean waves due to white capping

  • Klaus Hasselmann


The effect of white capping on the spectral energy balance of surface waves is investigated by expressing the white-cap interactions in terms of an equivalent ensemble of random pressure pulses. It is shown first that the source function for any non-expansible interaction process which is weak-in-the-mean is quasi-linear. In the case of white capping, the damping coefficient is then shown to be proportional to the square of the frequency, provided the wave scales are large compared with the white-cap dimensions. The remaining free factor is determined indirectly from consideration of the spectral energy balance. The proposed white-capping dissipation function is consistent with the structure of the energy balance derived from JONSWAP, and the existence of a δ−5 spectrum governed by a non-local energy balance between the atmospheric input, the nonlinear energy transfer and dissipation. However, closure of the energy balance involves hypotheses regarding the structure of the atmospheric input function which need to be tested by further measurements. The proposed set of source functions may nevertheless be useful for numerical wave-prediction. According to the model, nearly all the momentum transferred across the air-sea interface enters the wave field. For fetchlimited and fully developed spectra in a stationary, uniform wind field, the drag coefficient remains approximately constant. However, for more general wind conditions, this will not be the case and the wave spectrum should be included in an accurate parameterisation of the air-sea momentum transfer.


Surface Wave Source Function Ocean Wave Dissipation Function Wave Scale 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Hasselmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität Hamburg, Institut für GeophysikGermany

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