A Laboratory Investigation of Spume Generation in High Winds for Fresh and Seawater

Sanchit Mehta1, David G Ortiz-Suslow2 and Brian K Haus1, (1)University of Miami, Miami, FL, United States, (2)Naval Postgraduate School, Department of Meteorology, Monterey, CA, United States
The size-dependent vertical distribution of spume particles in high wind conditions is necessary to understand their effect on air-sea fluxes of heat and momentum. The predominant focus of previous studies of spray dynamics has been on the marine environment. Spray dynamics in non-seawater bodies have not been extensively studied, and any significant differences between sea and freshwater remain unquantified. To address this gap, we have conducted the first laboratory experiment directly comparing spume concentrations above fresh and real seawater for 10-m equivalent wind speeds of 36-54 m/s. Droplets in the air above the intensely breaking wind-waves were directly observed and their distribution as functions of wind speed, height, and droplet radius was compared between the two water types. Substantially higher concentrations of seawater spume were observed as compared to freshwater across all particle sizes and wind speeds. The seawater particles’ vertical distribution was concentrated near the surface, whereas the freshwater droplets were more uniformly distributed. Seawater and freshwater height-dependent distributions exhibited different wind-speed dependences. These findings were generally unexpected and point to an unanticipated role of physiochemical processes in the spume generation mechanism which may impact spray-mediated flux parameterization over water bodies of different salinities.