Relevance of wind stress and wave-dependent ocean surface roughness on the generation of winter meteotsunamis in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Abstract

Meteotsunamis associated with passing squall lines are often observed ahead of cold fronts during the winter in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Winter meteotsunamis occur simultaneously with wind speed variations (~5–20 m/s) and sea-level atmospheric pressure oscillations (~1–6 hPa) with periods between several minutes to 2 h. In order to enhance understanding of meteotsunami generation and propagation, the Coupled-Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sediment Transport (COAWST) modeling system is applied to one of the most intense winter meteotsunamis measured in the Northern Gulf of Mexico during the decade 2009–2018. The model, verified with sea level and atmospheric observations, is able to reproduce the timing and intensity of the wind at 10 m elevation and sea level atmospheric pressure fluctuations. The mean bias between observed and measured wind speeds and atmospheric pressure are 1.73 m/s and 0.63 hPa, respectively. The maximum meteotsunami elevation and its timing are successfully captured with a 7% underestimation of the maximum elevation. The relative effect of atmospheric pressure and wind stress on meteotsunami generation is assessed with different numerical simulations. Results indicate that both wind stress and atmospheric pressure changes contributed to the generation of the meteotsunami. Wind stress was the dominant force in shallow waters (<15 m in this application), while the effects of atmospheric pressure disturbances dominated over areas with Froude number close to one (~40 m in this application). During the passage of the squall line, the sea surface became rougher in a sea state characterized by young and steep local ocean waves. Compared to a purely wind-speed-dependent roughness scheme, the application of a wave-dependent roughness parameterization improved the modeled meteotsunami maximum elevation by 37%.

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Shi, L., Olabarrieta, M., Valle-Levinson, A., & Warner, J. C. (2019). Relevance of wind stress and wave-dependent ocean surface roughness on the generation of winter meteotsunamis in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Ocean Modelling, 140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocemod.2019.101408

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