Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 136, Issue 3, pp 365–376 | Cite as

Effects of Bubbles and Sea Spray on Air–Sea Exchange in Hurricane Conditions

Open Access


The lower limit on the drag coefficient under hurricane force winds is determined by the break-up of the air–sea interface due to Kelvin–Helmholtz instability and formation of the two-phase transition layer consisting of sea spray and air bubbles. As a consequence, a regime of marginal stability develops. In this regime, the air–sea drag coefficient is determined by the turbulence characteristics of the two-phase transition layer. The upper limit on the drag coefficient is determined by the Charnock-type wave resistance. Most of the observational estimates of the drag coefficient obtained in hurricane conditions and in laboratory experiments appear to lie between the two extreme regimes: wave resistance and marginal stability.


Air–sea interface Drag coefficient Hurricane Kelvin–Helmholtz instability Marginal stability 



The authors are grateful to Vladimir Kudryavtsev (Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center) and Mark Donelan (University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmosphere Science) for discussions of the problem of air–sea interactions under high wind-speed conditions. Alexander Soloviev acknowledges support from the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center project ‘Hydrodynamics and remoter sensing of far wakes of ships’. Roger Lukas has been supported by National Science Foundation grant OCE-0752606.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


  1. Andreas EL: Spray stress revisited. J Phys Oceanogr 34, 1429–1440 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Banner ML, Phillips OM: On the incipient breaking of small scale waves. J Fluid Mech 65, 647–656 (1974)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barenblatt GI, Chorin AJ, Prostokishin VM: A note concerning the Lighthill “sandwich model” of tropical cyclones. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102(32), 1148–1150 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benilov AY, Ly LN: Modeling of surface waves breaking effects in the ocean upper layer. Math Comput Model 35, 191–213 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black PG, D’Asaro EA, Drennan WM, French JR, Niiler PP, Sanford TB, Terrill EJ, Walsh EJ, Zhang JA: Air–sea exchange in hurricanes: synthesis of observations from the coupled boundary layer air–sea transfer experiment. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 88(3), 357–374 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bye JAT, Jenkins AD (2006) Drag coefficient reduction at very high wind speeds. J Geophys Res 111. doi:10.1029/2005JC003114
  7. Cox CS: Measurements of slopes of high-frequency wind waves. J Mar Res 16, 199–225 (1958)Google Scholar
  8. Csanady GT: The role of breaking wavelets in air–sea gas transfer. J Geophys Res 95, 749–759 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cushman-Roisin B: Introduction to geophysical fluid dynamics, 290 pp. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey (1994)Google Scholar
  10. Cushman-Roisin B, Beckers J-M (2009) Introduction to geophysical fluid dynamics: physical and numerical aspects. Academic Press (in press)Google Scholar
  11. Donelan MA, Haus BK, Reul N, Plant W, Stiassnie M, Graber H, Brown O, Saltzman E: On the limiting aerodynamic roughness of the ocean in very strong winds. Geophys Res Lett 31, L18306 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emanuel KA: Sensitivity of tropical cyclones to surface exchange coefficients and a revised steady-state model incorporating eye dynamics. J Atmos Sci 52, 3969–3976 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emanuel K: A similarity hypothesis for air–sea exchange at extreme wind speeds. J Atmos Sci 60, 1420–1428 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fairall CW, Bradley EF, Hare JE, Grachev AA, Edson JB: Bulk parameterization of air- sea fluxes: updates and verification for the COARE algorithm. J Clim 16, 571–591 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fairall CW, Banner ML, Peirson WL, Asher W, Morison RP: Investigation of the physical scaling of sea spray spume droplet production. J Geophys Res 114, C10001 (2009). doi:10.1029/2008JC004918 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fan Y, Ginis I, Hara T: The effect of wind-wave-current interaction on air–sea momentum fluxes and ocean response in tropical cyclones. J Phys Oceanogr 39, 1019–1034 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gramer L (2007) Kelvin–Helmholtz Instabilities. GFD II, 32 pp.
  18. Hinze J: Turbulence, 790 pp. McGraw-Hill, New York (1975)Google Scholar
  19. Jessup AT, Zappa CJ, Yeh HH: Defining and quantifying microscale wave breaking with infrared imagery. J Geophys Res 102(C10), 23145–23154 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Koga M: Direct production of droplets from breaking wind-waves—its observation by a multi-colored overlapping exposure technique. Tellus 33, 552–563 (1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kudryavtsev VN: On the effect of sea drops on the atmospheric boundary layer. J Geophys Res 111, C07020 (2006). doi:10.1029/2005JC002970:1-18 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kudryavtsev VN, Makin VK: The impact of air-flow separation on the drag of the sea surface. Boundary-Layer Meteorol 98, 155–171 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kudryavtsev VN, Makin VK: Aerodynamic roughness of the sea surface at high winds. Boundary-Layer Meteorol 125, 298–303 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kudryavtsev VN, Soloviev AV: Daytime near-surface current. Dokl Akad Nauk SSSR 303(1), 59–62 (1988)Google Scholar
  25. Kudryavtsev V, Dulov V, Shira V, Malinovsky V: On vertical structure of wind-driven sea surface currents. J Phys Oceanogr 38(10), 2121–2144 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kukulka T, Hara T: The effect of breaking waves on a coupled model of wind and ocean surface waves. Part II: growing seas. J Phys Oceanogr 38, 2164–2184 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kukulka T, Hara T, Belcher SE: A model of the air–sea momentum flux and breaking-wave distribution for strongly forced wind waves. J Phys Oceanogr 37, 1811–1828 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kundu P: Fluid mechanics, 638 pp. Academic Press, San Diego (1990)Google Scholar
  29. Lasheras JC, Hopfinger EJ: Liquid jet instability and atomization in a coaxial jet stream. Ann Rev Fluid Mech 32, 275 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lefebvre AH: Atomization and spray, pp. 421. Hemisphere, New York (1989)Google Scholar
  31. Longuet-Higgins MS: Capillary rollers and bores. J Fluid Mech 240, 659–679 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lozano A, Barreras F, Hauke G, Dopazo C: Longitudinal instabilities in an airblasted liquid sheet. J Fluid Mech 437, 143–173 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Makin VK, Kudryavtsev VN: Impact of dominant waves on sea drag. Boundary-Layer Meteorol 103, 83–99 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Miles JW, Howard LN: Note on a heterogeneous shear flow. J Fluid Mech 20, 331–336 (1964)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mueller JA, Veron F: Nonlinear formulation of the bulk surface stress over breaking waves: feedback mechanisms from air-flow separation. Boundary-Layer Meteorol 130, 117–134 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Neuwstadt FTM: The turbulent structure of the stable, nocturnal boundary layer. J Atmos Sci 41, 2202–2216 (1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Phillips OM: The dynamics of the upper ocean, 366 pp. Cambridge University Press, UK (1977)Google Scholar
  38. Powell MD (2007) New findings on hurricane intensity, wind field extent, and surface drag coefficient behavior. In: Tenth international workshop on wave hindcasting and forecasting and coastal hazard symposium, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, November 11–16, 2007, 14 ppGoogle Scholar
  39. Powell MD, Vickery PJ, Reinhold TA: Reduced drag coefficient for high wind speeds in tropical cyclones. Nature 422, 279–283 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Soloviev AV, Lukas R: Observation of wave-enhanced turbulence in the near-surface layer of the ocean during TOGA COARE. Deep-Sea Res I 50, 371–395 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Soloviev A, Lukas R: The near-surface layer of the ocean: structure, dynamics, and applications, 572 pp. Springer, New York (2006)Google Scholar
  42. Tennekes H, Lumley JL: A first course in turbulence, 300 pp. MIT Press, MA (1972)Google Scholar
  43. Terray EA, Donelan MA, Agrawal YC, Drennan WM, Kahma KK, Williams AJ III, Hwang PA, Kitaigorodskii SA: Estimates of kinetic energy dissipation under breaking waves. J Phys Oceanogr 26, 792–807 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thorpe S: Experiments on the instability of stratified shear flows: immiscible fluids. J Fluid Mech 39, 25–48 (1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Turner JS: Buoyancy effects in fluids, 382 pp. Cambridge University Press, New York (1973)Google Scholar
  46. Van Driest ER: On turbulent flow near a wall. J Aero Sci 23, 1007–1010 (1956)Google Scholar
  47. Webster PJ, Lukas R: TOGA COARE: The Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 73, 1377–1416 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wu J: Wind-induced drift current. J Fluid Mech 68, 49–70 (1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yecko P, Zaleski S, Fullana J-M: Viscous modes in two-phase mixing layers. Phys Fluids 14, 4115–4122 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zhang X, Harrison S: A laboratory observation of the surface temperature and velocity distributions on a wavy and windy air-water interface. Phys Fluids 16, L5–L8 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic CenterDania BeachUSA
  2. 2.Department of OceanographyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations