Large-eddy simulation studies of sea spray in the hurricane atmospheric boundary layer

Mark C. Kelly

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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The growth and maintenance of hurricanes is highly dependent upon the exchange of heat and momentum between the ocean and atmosphere. Because sea spray can significantly affect this ocean-air exchange, accurate hurricane models need to account for spray effects. We incorporate sea spray into large-eddy simulations (LES) to explore its role in the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) of hurricanes, allowing us to assess the validity of and offer improvements to the simple spray parameterizations currently used in hurricane models. We investigate thermodynamic feedback between spray and surface heat fluxes, and examine the effects of spray upon the dynamics of the hurricane boundary layer. Results of preliminary LES, which use a bulk representation of the dominant range of spray sizes and a simplified diagnostic phase change scheme, indicate an appreciable amount of spray-air heat transfer---consistent with theory---and demonstrate a form of spray-induced thermodynamic feedback. The LES model of the hurricane atmospheric boundary layer (HABL) is adapted to account for variations in spray generation due to wave-breaking, momentum transfer between air and spray in both the vertical (liquid loading and stratification) and horizontal (drag), and dissipative heating in an emulsion-like two-phase environment. These modifications are accompanied by extension of the phase change and spray generation schemes to account for different droplet sizes, and implementation of a moving three-dimensional boundary. Collective inclusion of all these pieces of modeled physics in the LES provides results which offer a better view of the limitations of current spray-flux models, and motivates a simpler and improved alternative model. The refined results of the 'full' LES-HABL model are consistent with early simulations, and underscore the significance of boundary-layer scale thermodynamic balance, spray-induced fluxes, and wind-dependent thermodynamic feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages189
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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