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A model for the wind-driven current in the wavy oceanic surface layer: apparent friction velocity reduction and roughness length enhancement

Teixeira, M. A. C. (2018) A model for the wind-driven current in the wavy oceanic surface layer: apparent friction velocity reduction and roughness length enhancement. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 48. pp. 2721-2736. ISSN 0022-3670

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JPO-D-18-0086.1


A simple analytical model is developed for the current induced by the wind and modified by surface wind-waves in the oceanic surface layer, based on a first-order turbulence closure and including the effect of a vortex force representing the Stokes drift of the waves. The shear stress is partitioned between a component due to shear in the current, which is reduced at low turbulent Langmuir number (La_t), and a wave-induced component, which decays over a depth proportional to the dominant wavelength (l_w). The model reproduces the apparent reduction of the friction velocity and enhancement of the roughness length estimated from current profiles, detected in a number of studies. These effects are predicted to intensify as La_t decreases, and are entirely attributed to non-breaking surface waves. The current profile becomes flatter for low La_t owing to a smaller fraction of the total shear stress being supported by the current shear. Comparisons with the comprehensive dataset provided by the laboratory experiments of Cheung and Street show encouraging agreement, with the current speed normalized by the friction velocity decreasing as La_t decreases and l_w increases if the model is adjusted to reflect the effects of a full wave spectrum on the intensity and depth of penetration of the wave-induced stress. A version of the model where the shear stress decreases to zero over a depth consistent with the measurements accurately predicts the surface current speed. These results contribute towards developing physically-based momentum flux parameterizations for the wave-affected boundary layer in ocean circulation models.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:79612
Uncontrolled Keywords:Langmuir turbulence, wind waves, wind-induced current, surface layer, roughness length, friction velocity, shear stress
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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