Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 383–410 | Cite as

Impact of Ocean Spray on the Dynamics of the Marine Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Open Access


The impact of ocean spray on the dynamics of the marine near-surface air boundary layer (MABL) in conditions of very high (hurricane) wind speeds is investigated. Toward this end, a model of the MABL in the presence of sea-spume droplets is developed. The model is based on the classical theory of the motion of suspended particles in a turbulent flow, where the mass concentration of droplets is not mandatory small. Description of the spume-droplet generation assumes that they, being torn off from breaking waves, are injected in the form of a jet of spray into the airflow at the altitude of breaking wave crests. The droplets affect the boundary-layer dynamics in two ways: via the direct impact of droplets on the airflow momentum forming the so-called spray force, and via the impact of droplets on the turbulent mixing through stratification. The latter is parametrized applying the Monin–Obukhov similarity theory. It is found that the dominant impact of droplets on the MABL dynamics appears through the action of the ‘spray force’ originated from the interaction of the ‘rain of spray’ with the wind velocity shear, while the efficiency of the stratification mechanism is weaker. The effect of spray leads to an increase in the wind velocity and suppression of the turbulent wind stress in the MABL. The key issue of the model is a proper description of the spume-droplet generation. It is shown that, after the spume-droplet generation is fitted to the observations, the MABL model is capable of reproducing the fundamental experimental finding—the suppression of the surface drag at very high wind speeds. We found that, at very high wind speeds, a thin part of the surface layer adjacent to the surface turns into regime of limited saturation with the spume droplets, resulting in the levelling off of the friction velocity and decrease of the drag coefficient as \({U_{10}^{-2}, U_{10}}\) being the wind speed at 10-m height.


High wind speeds Marine atmospheric boundary layer Sea-surface drag Spume droplets Wave breaking 



The ONR Grant N00014-08-1-0609, Federal Targeted Programme under the contracts, N02.740.11.5225 and N14.740.11.0201; and the EC FP7 project ERC PBL-PMES (contract 227915) are gratefully acknowledged.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre (NIERSC)Russian State Hydrometeorological University (RSHU)Saint PetersburgRussia
  2. 2.Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI)De BiltThe Netherlands

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