Air entrainment and bubble statistics in breaking waves

Luc Deike, W. Kendall Melville, Stéphane Popinet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


We investigate air entrainment and bubble statistics in three-dimensional breaking waves through novel direct numerical simulations of the two-phase air-water flow, resolving the length scales relevant for the bubble formation problem, the capillary length and the Hinze scale. The dissipation due to breaking is found to be in good agreement with previous experimental observations and inertial scaling arguments. The air entrainment properties and bubble size statistics are investigated for various initial characteristic wave slopes. For radii larger than the Hinze scale, the bubble size distribution, can be described by during the active breaking stages, where is the time-dependent turbulent dissipation rate, with the collapse time of the initial air pocket entrained by the breaking wave, a weighted vertical velocity of the bubble plume, the maximum bubble radius, gravity, the initial volume of air entrained, the bubble radius and a dimensionless constant. The active breaking time-averaged bubble size distribution is described by , where is the wave dissipation rate per unit length of breaking crest, the water density and the length of breaking crest. Finally, the averaged total volume of entrained air, , per breaking event can be simply related to by , which leads to a relationship for a characteristic slope, , of . We propose a phenomenological turbulent bubble break-up model based on earlier models and the balance between mechanical dissipation and work done against buoyancy forces. The model is consistent with the numerical results and existing experimental results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-129
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Aug 25 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • air/sea interaction
  • bubble dynamics
  • wave breaking


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