Understanding how the air and sea interact and affect each other during hurricane conditions is crucial in predicting the storm track, its intensity, storm surges, and ocean wave fields. When scientists create computer models to help them assess the parameters of a hurricane, they must take into account not only the atmospheric conditions of the storm, but also the conditions in the ocean, including the age and the frequency of waves.
In the current issue of the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, University of Rhode Island physical oceanographers Il-Ju Moon, Isaac Ginis and Tetsu Hara have published two companion papers that investigate the how surface waves and wind affect the dynamics of growing seas and complex seas under extreme hurricane conditions using a combination of computer models. Other collaborators on the project include Stephen Belcher, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Berkshire, England, and Hendrik Tolman, the NOAA National Center for Environmental Prediction Environmental Modeling Center, Camp Springs, MD.
The team of scientists combined three computer models to ascertain their results. The NOAA WAVEWATCH III ocean surface wave model accounts for wind input, wave-wave interaction and dissipation due to whitecapping, and wave-bottom interaction. The equilibrium spectrum model, created by Hara and Belcher, estimates the effect of the wind on the ocean by taking into account the stress caused by the waves. The wave boundary layer model, also created by Hara and Belcher, explicitly calculates the near-surface wind profile, as well as the surface drag created by the waves. In the first study, the combined model predicted the effect of the wind-wave interaction by calculating how the waves contribute to the dynamics of a mature and growing sea. The second study followed the same approach, but focused on the effect of surface waves on air-sea exchange in extreme complex seas forced by tropical cyclones.
Lisa Cugini | EurekAlert!
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