Observations of Surfzone Albedo

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Gregory Sinnett, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States and Falk Feddersen, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
The surfzone environment (where waves break) contains several unique and previously unconsidered processes that affect the heat budget. Entering short-wave radiation is a dominant term in both shelf and surfzone heat budgets. In contrast to the shelf, however, depth limited wave breaking in the surfzone generates spray, whitewater and suspended sediments, elevating the surface albedo (ratio of reflected to incident short-wave radiation). Elevated albedo reduces the level of solar short-wave radiation entering the water, potentially resulting in less heating. Additionally, surfzone water quality is often impacted by fecal bacteria contamination. As bacteria mortality is related to short-wave solar radiation, elevated surfzone albedo could reduce pathogen mortality, impacting human health.

Albedo in the open ocean has been frequently studied and parameterizations often consider solar zenith angle, wind speed and ocean chlorophyll concentration, producing albedo values typically near 0.06. However, surfzone albedo observations have been extremely sparse, yet show depth limited wave breaking may increase the albedo by nearly a factor of 10 up to 0.5. Here, we present findings from a field study at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier to observe the affect of waves on surfzone albedo. Concurrent measurements were taken with a four-way radiometer (to measure both downwelling and upwelling short-wave and long wave radiation) mounted above the surfzone. A co-located GoPro camera was used to relate visual aspects of the surfzone to measured reflectance, and wave height and period were observed with a bottom mounted pressure sensor in 5 m water depth just outside the surfzone. Wind speed and direction were observed on the pier 10 m above the water surface. Here, we will examine the surfzone albedo dependence on surfzone parameters, such as wave height.