Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Applied Marine Physics (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Brian K. Haus

Second Committee Member

William M. Drennan

Third Committee Member

Ad J.H.M. Reniers

Fourth Committee Member

Hans C. Graber

Fifth Committee Member

Jim M. Thomson


The turbulent fluxes of momentum, mass, and energy across the ocean-atmosphere boundary are fundamental to our understanding of a myriad of geophysical processes, such as wind-wave generation, oceanic circulation, and air-sea gas transfer. In order to better understand these fluxes, empirical relationships were developed to quantify the interfacial exchange rates in terms of easily observed parameters (e.g., wind speed). However, mounting evidence suggests that these empirical formulae are only valid over the relatively narrow parametric space, i.e. open ocean conditions in light to moderate winds. Several near-surface processes have been observed to cause significant variance in the air-sea fluxes not predicted by the conventional functions, such as a heterogeneous surfaces, swell waves, and wave breaking. Further study is needed to fully characterize how these types of processes can modulate the interfacial exchange; in order to achieve this, a broad investigation into air-sea coupling was undertaken. The primary focus of this work was to use a combination of field and laboratory observations and numerical modeling, in regimes where conventional theories would be expected to breakdown, namely: the nearshore and in very high winds. These seemingly disparate environments represent the marine atmospheric boundary layer at its physical limit. In the nearshore, the convergence of land, air, and sea in a depth-limited domain marks the transition from a marine to a terrestrial boundary layer. Under extreme winds, the physical nature of the boundary layer remains unknown as an intermediate substrate layer, sea spray, develops between the atmosphere and ocean surface. At these ends of the MABL physical spectrum, direct measurements of the near-surface processes were made and directly related to local sources of variance. Our results suggest that the conventional treatment of air-sea fluxes in terms of empirical relationships developed from a relatively narrow set of environmental conditions do not generalize to the coastal and extreme wind environments. This body of work represents a multi-faceted approach to understanding physical air-sea interactions in varied regimes and using a wide array of investigatory methods.


Air-Sea Interaction; Field Observations; Numerical Modeling; Laboratory Studies; Nearshore Processes; High Winds