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Free Content The coupling of wave drift and wind velocity profiles

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The Stokes drift velocity profile due to Toba's equilibrium wave spectrum is shown to consist of a surface constant shear layer, an intermediate logarithmic layer and a deep exponentially decaying tail. On identifying the logarithmic layer with a wall boundary layer (which is justified a posteriori by showing that the major part of the energy dissipation by wave breaking occurs in the roughness sublayer), for a range of directionality (p) of the wave spectrum ½–2, Toba's constant (α) lies in the range 0.12–0.10 in good agreement with data. The roughness length for water (z0) of this profile has the Charnock form, z0 = au2*g–1 in which u* is the friction velocity in air, g is the acceleration of gravity and a is a constant of order unity determined by the condition that momentum transfer by wave breaking just supports the wind stress, and using this formula the transition from smooth to intermediate flow at which rippling commences is quite well estimated. The velocity profiles in air and water with respect to z0, are predicted from a similarity hypothesis to have the forms

u′ = u* ( + 1/ ln z/z0)

u = w* ( − 1/ ln z/z0)    z > z0

where z is the distance from the sea surface, u′ and u are respectively the velocities in air and water, is Von Karman's constant, w* is the friction velocity in water, w* is the Stokes surface drift velocity, and u* is a wave speed centered in the equilibrium range. Observations in the open sea indicate that  ∼ 12.

An alternate pair of profiles, also predicted from the similarity hypothesis, is,

u′ = us + u*/ ln z/z′0

u = usw*/ ln z/z′0    z > z′0

where z′0 is the roughness length for air, and us ∼ 2w* is the surface current. Observations suggest that small surface drifters travel at speeds intermediate between w* and 2w*.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 1988

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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