Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
Ocean Sci., 8, 455–471, 2012
Ocean Sci., 8, 455–471, 2012

Research article 10 Jul 2012

Research article | 10 Jul 2012

On the influence of wind and waves on underwater irradiance fluctuations

M. Hieronymi1,2,3 and A. Macke1 M. Hieronymi and A. Macke
  • 1Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (IFT), Leipzig, Germany
  • 2Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (GEOMAR), Kiel, Germany
  • 3Institute of Coastal Research, Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht (HZG), Germany

Abstract. The influence of various wind and wave conditions on the variability of downwelling irradiance Ed (490 nm) in water is subject of this study. The work is based on a two-dimensional Monte Carlo radiative transfer model with high spatial resolution. The model assumes conditions that are ideal for wave focusing, thus simulation results reveal the upper limit for light fluctuations. Local wind primarily determines the steepness of capillary-gravity waves which in turn dominate the irradiance variability near the surface. Down to 3 m depth, maximum irradiance peaks that exceed the mean irradiance Ed by a factor of more than 7 can be observed at low wind speeds up to 5 m s−1. The strength of irradiance fluctuations can be even amplified under the influence of higher ultra-gravity waves; thereby peaks can exceed 11 Ed. Sea states influence the light field much deeper; gravity waves can cause considerable irradiance variability even at 100 m depth. The simulation results show that under realistic conditions 50% radiative enhancements compared to the mean can still occur at 30 m depth. At greater depths, the underwater light variability depends on the wave steepness of the characteristic wave of a sea state; steeper waves cause stronger light fluctuations.