Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 65–76 | Cite as

Spatial structure of directional wave spectra in hurricanes

  • Bernardo Esquivel-Trava
  • Francisco J. Ocampo-Torres
  • Pedro Osuna


The spatial structure of the wave field during hurricane conditions is studied using the National Data Buoy Center directional wave buoy data set from the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The buoy information, comprising the directional wave spectra during the passage of several hurricanes, was referenced to the center of the hurricane using the path of the hurricane, the propagation velocity, and the radius of the maximum winds. The directional wave spectra were partitioned into their main components to quantify the energy corresponding to the observed wave systems and to distinguish between wind-sea and swell. The findings are consistent with those found using remote sensing data (e.g., Scanning Radar Altimeter data). Based on the previous work, the highest waves are found in the right forward quadrant of the hurricane, where the spectral shape tends to become uni-modal, in the vicinity of the region of maximum winds. More complex spectral shapes are observed in distant regions at the front of and in the rear quadrants of the hurricane, where there is a tendency of the spectra to become bi- and tri-modal. The dominant waves generally propagate at significant angles to the wind direction, except in the regions next to the maximum winds of the right quadrants. Evidence of waves generated by concentric eyewalls associated with secondary maximum winds was also found. The frequency spectra display some of the characteristics of the JONSWAP spectrum adjusted by Young (J Geophys Res 111:8020, 2006); however, at the spectral peak, the similarity with the Pierson–Moskowitz spectrum is clear. These results establish the basis for the use in assessing the ability of numerical models to simulate the wave field in hurricanes.


Hurricane generated waves Directional wave spectrum 



The authors are grateful to the anonymous referees for their constructive comments and suggestions that significantly improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernardo Esquivel-Trava
    • 1
  • Francisco J. Ocampo-Torres
    • 1
  • Pedro Osuna
    • 1
  1. 1.CICESEDepartamento de Oceanografía FísicaZona Playitas, B.C.México

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