Peer-Reviewed Research

Footprint of the air-sea momentum transfer saturation observed by ocean wave buoy network in extreme tropical cyclones

Sofar Ocean

This paper was written by Tomoya Shimura, Nobuhito Mori, and Takuya Miyashita.


Tropical cyclones are one of the most destructive natural phenomena, causing tremendous coastal disasters worldwide. The maximum intensity of tropical cyclones is determined by momentum and heat transfer at the air-sea interface. Momentum transfer corresponds to the momentum loss of tropical cyclones and, consequently, to the underlying ocean’s momentum gain causing extreme ocean waves and storm surges. Air-side observations of wind profiles and ocean-side observations of ocean subsurface currents show a slowdown of momentum transfer under high tropical cyclone wind speeds in the previous studies. However, there is still disagreement regarding the slowdown owing to lack of data. Here, we show momentum transfer under high wind speed conditions by observing ocean waves. Although ocean wave observations are highly spatially limited, we deployed a fleet of drifting ocean wave buoys covering the active area of tropical cyclones in the Western North Pacific. The buoy fleet captured extreme waves near the eye of the strongest category 5 tropical cyclone, indicating an ocean wave footprint of the momentum transfer saturation above surface wind speeds of 25 m/s. Our approach from ocean surface wave observation is a unique contribution to determination on air-sea momentum transfer slowdown under extreme wind speeds, which can compensate for the knowledge from conventional air and ocean-side observations. This finding advances tropical cyclones, extreme ocean waves, and storm surge modeling.

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