EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Microphysics of the air-sea coupling at high winds and its role in the dynamics and thermodynamics of severe sea storms

Yuliya Troitskaya1,2, Alexander Kandaurov1, Daniil Sergeev1, Olga Ermakova1, Dmitrii Kozlov1, Maxim Vdovin1, and Oleg Druzhinin1
Yuliya Troitskaya et al.
  • 1Institute of Applied Physics, Nonlinear Gejphysical Processes, Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Federation (
  • 2Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Moscow, Russian Federation

Showing the record strengths and growth-rates, a number of recent hurricanes have highlighted needs for improving forecasts of tropical cyclone intensities most sensitive to models of the air-sea coupling. Especially challenging is the nature and effect of the very small-scale phenomena, the sea-spray and foam, supposed to strongly affecting the momentum- and heat- air-sea fluxes at strong winds. This talk will focus on our progress in understanding and describing these "micro-scale" processes, their physical properties, the spray and foam mediated air-sea fluxes and the impact on the development of marine storms.

The starting points for this study were two laboratory experiments. The first one was designed for investigation of the spray generation mechanisms at high winds. We found out 3 dominant spray generating mechanisms: stretching liquid ligaments, bursting bubbles, splashing of the falling droplets and "bag-breakup". We investigated the efficiency spray-production mechanisms and developed the empirical statistics of the numbers of the spray generating events of each type. Basing on the "white-cap method" we found out the dependence of the spray-generating events on the wind fetch. The main attention was paid to the "bag-breakup" mechanism. Here we studied in detail the statistics of spray produced from one "bag-breakup" event. Basing on these developments, we estimated heat and momentum fluxes from the spray-generating events of different types and found out the dominant role of the "bag-breakup" mechanism.

To estimate the direct heat and momentum fluxes from the ocean surface to the atmosphere, we studied in the special experiment the foam impact on the short-wave part of the surface waves and the heat momentum exchange in the atmospheric boundary layer at high winds. Based on these results, we suggest a simple model for the aerodynamic and temperature roughness and the eddy viscosity in the turbulent boundary layer over a fractionally foam-covered water surface.

The synergetic effect of foam at the water surface and spray in the marine atmospheric boundary layer on ocean surface resistance at high winds is estimated so as to be able to explain the observed peculiarities of the air-sea fluxes at stormy conditions. Calculations within the nonhydrostatic axisymmetric model show, that the "microphysics" of the air-sea coupling significantly accelerate development of the ocean storm.

This work was supported by RFBR grant 19-05-00249 and RSF grant 19-17-00209.

How to cite: Troitskaya, Y., Kandaurov, A., Sergeev, D., Ermakova, O., Kozlov, D., Vdovin, M., and Druzhinin, O.: Microphysics of the air-sea coupling at high winds and its role in the dynamics and thermodynamics of severe sea storms, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7149,, 2020


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