Simulating a bubbly ocean

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Abstract

Bubbles, which form on the ocean surface when waves break, are an important part of air-sea gas transfer. They also affect the optical and acoustical properties of the near-surface ocean. Observations of oceanic bubbles are limited, and scientists do not yet fully understand subsurface bubble evolution and the role of bubbles in ocean dynamics as well as air-sea gas transfer. Liang et al., building on their previous study of bubbles in the ocean, used a multisize, multicomponent bubble model embedded in a large-eddy simulation model for turbulent oceanic boundary flows to study how bubbles evolve in the ocean after they form, what determines the subsurface bubble distribution, how bubbles affect boundary layer turbulence, and what the subsurface bubble distribution means for bubble-mediated gas transfer. They found that bubbles dissolve while being carried by turbulent flows, and the mean subsurface bubble distribution can be quantified using wind speed and sea state. The model could help improve understanding of bubbles' role in air-sea gas exchange. (Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, doi:10.1029/2011JC007766, 2012)

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