A Mechanistic Sea Spray Generation Function Based on the Sea State and the Physics of Bubble Bursting

L. Deike, B. G. Reichl, F. Paulot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Bubbles bursting at the ocean surface are an important source of ocean-spray aerosol, with implications on radiative and cloud processes. Yet, very large uncertainties exist on the role of key physical controlling parameters, including wind speed, sea state and water temperature. We propose a mechanistic sea spray generation function that is based on the physics of bubble bursting. The number and mean droplet radius of jet and film drops is described by scaling laws derived from individual bubble bursting laboratory and numerical experiments, as a function of the bubble radius and the water physico-chemical properties (viscosity, density and surface tension, all functions of temperature), with drops radii at production from 0.1 to 500 µm. Next, we integrate over the bubble size distribution entrained by breaking waves. Finally, the sea spray generation function is obtained by considering the volume flux of entrained bubbles due to breaking waves in the field constrained by the third moment of the breaking distribution (akin to the whitecap coverage). This mechanistic approach naturally integrates the role of wind and waves via the breaking distribution and entrained air flux, and a sensitivity to temperature via individual bubble bursting mechanisms. The resulting sea spray generation function has not been tuned or adjusted to match any existing data sets, in terms of magnitude of sea salt emissions and recently observed temperature dependencies. The remarkable coherence between the model and observations of sea salt emissions therefore strongly supports the mechanistic approach and the resulting sea spray generation function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022AV000750
JournalAGU Advances
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • aerosol
  • bubble bursting
  • sea spray aerosol emission
  • wave breaking


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