On momentum flux and velocity spectra over waves

William M. Drennan, Kimmo K. Kahma, Mark A. Donelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Data from a research tower in Lake Ontario are used to study the validity of Monin-Obukhov scaling in the marine atmospheric boundary layer under various wave conditions. It is found that over pure wind seas, the velocity spectra and cospectra follow established universal scaling laws. However, in the presence of swells outrunning weak winds, velocity spectra and cospectra no longer satisfy universal spectral shapes. Here, Monin-Obukhov similarity theory, and the classical logarithmic boundary layers, are no longer valid. It is further shown that, in the presence of such swells, the momentum flux can be significantly modified in comparison to pure wind sea values. The implications of these findings for bulk flux estimations and on the inertial dissipation method for calculating fluxes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-515
Number of pages27
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Air-sea fluxes
  • Monin-Obukhov theory
  • Swell
  • Universal spectra
  • Wind stress
  • Wind waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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