Where the sea meets the sky: Recent studies of the wind-driven ocean surface layer

David M. Farmer
Institute of Ocean Sciences

Wednesday, September 8, 1999
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

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Although the sea surface is the most visible ocean boundary, at higher sea states it presents oceanographers with some of their greatest challenges. Yet atmosphere-ocean interaction is of fundamental importance to our understanding of climate and upper ocean properties. Recent studies of this energetic environment have made use of several new techniques, many of them exploiting acoustical concepts. Waves and wave breaking, near-surface turbulence, entrainment of air, and the character of coherent motions such as Langmuir circulation, play a central role in transferring heat, gas, and momentum from the surface to deeper waters.

In our recent research we have found bubble populations of particular interest, since their formation, mixing, and ultimate disappearance through dissolution or surface loss not only affects air-sea gas exchange, but also provides an elegant tracer of the near-surface environment. Results from a range of new observational approaches will be described, providing us with the observations needed to build and test models of this sensitive but often violent face of the ocean.

Next:  An acoustical view of the sea- From ocean acoustics to acoustical oceanography

 Last updated: December 19, 2000