A Sea Surface-Based Drag Model for Large-Eddy Simulation of Wind-Wave Interaction

Aditya K. Aiyer, Luc Deike, Michael E. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Monin-Obukhov similarity theory (MOST) is a well-tested approach for specifying the fluxes when the roughness surfaces are homogeneous. For flow over waves (inhomogeneous surfaces), phase-averaged roughness length scales are often prescribed through models based on the wave characteristics and the wind speed. However, such approaches lack generalizability over different wave ages and steepnesses due to the reliance on model coefficients tuned to specific datasets. In this paper, a sea surface-based hydrodynamic drag model applicable to moving surfaces is developed to model the pressure-based surface drag felt by the wind due to the waves. The model is based on the surface gradient approach of Anderson and Meneveau applicable to stationary obstacles and extended here to the wind-wave problem. The wave drag model proposed specifies the hydrodynamic force based on the incoming momentum flux, wave phase speed, and the surface frontal area. The drag coefficient associated with the wind-wave momentum exchange is determined based on the wave steepness. The wave drag model is used to simulate turbulent airflow above a monochromatic wave train with different wave ages and wave steepnesses. The mean velocity profiles and model form stresses are validated with available laboratory-scale experimental data and show good agreement across a wide range of wave steepnesses and wave ages. The drag force is correlated with the wave surface gradient and out-of-phase with the wave height distribution by a factor of p/2 for the sinusoidal wave train considered. These results demonstrate that the current approach is sufficiently general over a wide parameter space compared to wave phase-averaged models with a minimal increase in computational cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Air-sea interaction
  • Boundary layer
  • Large eddy simulation
  • Marine boundary layer


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