Measurements of Momentum and Heat Transfer across the Air–Sea Interface Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract This study makes direct measurements of turbulent fluxes in the mixed layer in order to close heat and momentum budgets across the air–sea interface and to assess the ability of rigid-boundary turbulence models to predict mean vertical gradients beneath the ocean’s wavy surface. Observations were made at 20 Hz at nominal depths of 2.2 and 1.7 m in ?16 m of water. A new method is developed to estimate the fluxes and the length scales of dominant flux-carrying eddies from cospectra at frequencies below the wave band. The results are compared to independent estimates of those quantities, with good agreement between the two sets of estimates. The observed temperature gradients were smaller than predicted by standard rigid-boundary closure models, consistent with the suggestion that wave breaking and Langmuir circulation increase turbulent diffusivity in the upper ocean. Similarly, the Monin–Obukhov stability function ?h was smaller in the authors’ measurements than the stability functions used in rigid-boundary applications of the Monin–Obukhov similarity theory. The dominant horizontal length scales of flux-carrying turbulent eddies were found to be consistent with observations in the bottom boundary layer of the atmosphere and from laboratory experiments in three ways: 1) in statically unstable conditions, the eddy sizes scaled linearly with distance to the boundary; 2) in statically stable conditions, length scales decreased with increasing downward buoyancy flux; and 3) downwind length scales were larger than crosswind length scales.

publication date

  • May 1, 2008