Air entrainment by breaking waves

Luc Deike, Luc Lenain, W. Kendall Melville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We present an estimate of the total volume of entrained air by breaking waves in the open ocean, based on a model for a single breaking wave and the statistics of breaking waves measured in the field and described by the average length of breaking crests moving with speeds in the range (c,c + dc) per unit area of ocean surface, Λ(c)dc, introduced by Phillips (1985). By extending the single breaking wave model to the open ocean, we show that the volume flux of air entrained by breaking waves, VA (volume per unit ocean area per unit time, a velocity), is given by the third moment of Λ(c), modulated by a function of the wave slope. Using field measurements of the distribution Λ(c) and the wave spectrum, we obtain an estimate of the total volume flux of air entrained by breaking for a wide range of wind and wave conditions. These results pave the way for accurate remote sensing of the air entrained by breaking waves and subsequent estimates of the associated gas transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3779-3787
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 28 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • air-sea interaction
  • bubbles
  • gas transfer
  • wave breaking


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