Field measurements and scaling of ocean surface wave-breaking statistics
Article first published online: 17 JUN 2013
©2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 40, Issue 12, pages 3074–3079, 28 June 2013
How to Cite
2013), Field measurements and scaling of ocean surface wave-breaking statistics, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 3074–3079 doi:10.1002/grl.50584., and (
- Issue published online: 18 JUL 2013
- Article first published online: 17 JUN 2013
- Accepted manuscript online: 28 MAY 2013 08:06AM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 22 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 21 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Received: 30 APR 2013
- breaking waves;
- upper ocean turbulence;
 Deep-water breaking waves provide a mechanism for mass, momentum, and energy transfer between the atmosphere and ocean. Microscale breaking is particularly important, but notoriously difficult to measure in the field. In this paper, measurements from a new technique, using a stereo pair of long-wave infrared cameras to reconstruct the sea surface shape and velocity field, are presented. Breakers are detected using an image texture-based algorithm and then tracked on the reconstructed surface. These waves range from large air-entraining breakers to microbreakers that are undetectable by traditional visible video-based techniques. This allows measurements of breaker length distributions, Λ(c), that extend to velocities near the gravity-capillary transition. These distributions are compared with measurements from the literature and from visible video imagery. A nondimensional scaling is proposed which collapses Λ(c). Finally, estimates of energy dissipation and stress based on Λ(c) are found to agree well with wave energy dissipation and wind stress models.