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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Nov 2018

Research article | 01 Nov 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Predicting Ocean Waves along the U.S. East Coast During Energetic Winter Storms: sensitivity to Whitecapping parameterizations

Mohammad Nabi Allahdadi1, Ruoying He1, and Vincent S. Neary2 Mohammad Nabi Allahdadi et al.
  • 1North Carolina State University, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, Raleigh, NC27695, USA
  • 2Sandia National Laboratories, P.O. Box 5800, Albuquerque, NM 87185-MS1124, USA

Abstract. The performance of two methods for quantifying whitecapping dissipation incorporated in the SWAN wave model is evaluated for waves generated along and off the U.S. East Coast under energetic winter storms with a predominantly westerly wind. Parameterizing the whitecapping effect can be done using the Komen-type schemes, which are based on mean spectral parameters, or the saturation-based (SB) approach of van der Westhuysen (2007), which is based on local wave parameters and the saturation level concept of the wave spectrum (we use Komen and Westhuysen to denote these two approaches). Observations of wave parameters and frequency spectra at four NDBC buoys are used to evaluate simulation results. Model-data comparisons show that when using the default parameters in SWAN, both Komen and Westhuysen methods underestimate wave height. Simulations of mean wave period using the Komen method agree with observations, but those using the Westhuysen method are substantially lower. Examination of source terms shows that the Westhuysen method underestimates the total energy transferred into the wave action equations, especially in the lower frequency bands that contain higher spectral energy. Several causes for this underestimation are identified. The primary reason is the difference between the wave growth conditions along the East Coast during winter storms and the conditions used for the original whitecapping formula calibration. In addition, some deficiencies in simulation results are caused along the coast by the slanting fetch effect that adds low-frequency components to the 2-D wave spectra. These components cannot be simulated partly or entirely by available wind input formulations. Further, the effect of boundary layer instability that is not considered in the Komen and Westhuysen whitecapping wind input formulas may cause additional underestimation.

Mohammad Nabi Allahdadi et al.
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Mohammad Nabi Allahdadi et al.
Mohammad Nabi Allahdadi et al.
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Short summary
Dissipation of ocean waves due to Whitecapping is one of the most important processes that affect generation of gravity waves by wind. Different behavior of traditional approaches used for quantifying Whitecapping dissipation under different wave conditions has always been a challenge to choose the most appropriate approach for a given area. The present paper examines the performance of two popular Whitecapping approaches incorporated in SWAN during the winter storms along the U.S East Coast.
Dissipation of ocean waves due to Whitecapping is one of the most important processes that...