Wind work at the air-sea interface: a modeling study in anticipation of future...

Torres, H., P. Klein, J. Wang, A. Wineteer, B. Qiu, A. Thompson, L. Renault, E. Rodriguez, D. Menemenlis, A. Molod, C. N. Hill, E. Strobach, H. Zhang, M. Flexas, and D. Perkovic-Martin (2022), Wind work at the air-sea interface: a modeling study in anticipation of future space missions, Geosci. Model. Dev., doi:10.5194/gmd-15-8041-2022.

Wind work at the air-sea interface is the transfer of kinetic energy between the ocean and the atmosphere and, as such, is an important part of the ocean-atmosphere coupled system. Wind work is defined as the scalar product of ocean wind stress and surface current, with each of these two variables spanning, in this study, a broad range of spatial and temporal scales, from 10 km to more than 3000 km and hours to months. These characteristics emphasize wind work’s multiscale nature. In the absence of appropriate global observations, our study makes use of a new global, coupled ocean-atmosphere simulation, with horizontal grid spacing of 2–5 km for the ocean and 7 km for the atmosphere, analyzed for 12 months. We develop a methodology, both in physical and spectral spaces, to diagnose three different components of wind work that force distinct classes of ocean motions, including high-frequency internal gravity waves, such as near-inertial oscillations, low-frequency currents such as those associated with eddies, and seasonally averaged currents, such as zonal tropical and equatorial jets. The total wind work, integrated globally, has a magnitude close to 5 TW, a value that matches recent estimates. Each of the first two components that force high-frequency and low-frequency currents, accounts for ∼ 28 % of the total wind work and the third one that forces seasonally averaged currents, ∼ 44 %. These three components, when integrated globally, weakly vary with seasons but their spatial distribution over the oceans has strong seasonal and latitudinal variations. In addition, the high-frequency component that forces internal gravity waves, is highly sensitive to the collocation in space and time (at scales of a few hours) of wind stresses and ocean currents. Furthermore, the lowfrequency wind work component acts to dampen currents with a size smaller than 250 km and strengthen currents with larger sizes. This emphasizes the need to perform a full kinetic budget involving the wind work and nonlinear advection terms as small and larger-scale low-frequency currents interact through these nonlinear terms. The complex interplay of surface wind stresses and currents revealed by the numerical simulation motivates the need for winds and currents satellite missions to directly observe wind work.

PDF of Publication: 
Download from publisher's website.
Research Program: 
Physical Oceanography Program (POP)