Surface stress over the ocean in swell-dominated conditions during moderate winds

Ulf Högström, Erik Sahlée, Ann Sofi Smedman, Anna Rutgersson, Erik Nilsson, Kimmo K. Kahma, William M. Drennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Atmospheric and surface wave data from several oceanic experiments carried out on the Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) and the Air-Sea Interaction Spar (ASIS) have been analyzed with the purpose of identifying swell-related effects on the surface momentum exchange during near-neutral atmospheric conditions and wind-following or crosswind seas. All data have a pronounced negative maximum in uw cospectra centered at the frequency of the dominant swell np, meaning a positive contribution to the stress. A similar contribution at this frequency is also obtained for the corresponding crosswind cospectrum. The magnitude of the cospectral maximum is shown to be linearly related to the square of the orbital motion, being equal to 1:25Hsd2np2, where Hsd is the swell-significant wave height, the effect tentatively being due to strong correlation between the surface component of the orbital motion and the pattern of capillary waves over long swell waves. A model for prediction of the friction velocity u*from measurements of Hsd, np, and the 10-m wind speed U10 is formulated and tested against an independent dataset of ~400 half-hour measurements during swell, giving good result. The model predicts that the drag coefficient CD, which is traditionally modeled as a function of U10 alone (e.g., the COARE algorithm), becomes strongly dependent on the magnitude of the swell factor 1:25Hsd2np2 and that CD can attain values several times larger than predicted by wind speed-only models. According to maps of the global wave climate, conditions leading to large effects are likely to be widespread over the World Ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4777-4795
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Atm/Ocean Structure/ Phenomena
  • Atmosphere-ocean interaction
  • Marine boundary layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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