Current generation by deep-water breaking waves

N. E. Pizzo, Luc Deike, W. Kendall Melville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We examine the partitioning of the energy transferred to the water column by deep-water wave breaking; in this case between the turbulent and mean flow. It is found that more than 95 % of the energy lost by the wave field is dissipated in the first four wave periods after the breaking event. The remaining energy is in the coherent vortex generated by breaking. A scaling argument shows that the ratio between the energy in this breaking generated mean current and the total energy lost from the wave field to the water column due to breaking scales as (hk)1/2, where hk is the local slope at breaking. This model is examined using direct numerical simulations of breaking waves solving the full two-phase air-water Navier-Stokes equations, as well as the limited available laboratory data, and good agreement is found for strong breaking waves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-291
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Sep 25 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • air/sea interactions
  • wave breaking
  • waves/free-surface flows


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