Experiments on waves in oil and ice (completed)

About the project


The main objective of this project is to provide experimental data from the laboratory and the field, which can be used to validate existing theories pertaining to

  • wave damping caused by flexible surface covers,for example due to elastic surface films, oil slicks or grease ice,
  • wave dependent fluxes of momentum and energy, for example the impact of surfactants/oil slicks on momentum and energy fluxes to the waves and the mean flow, and the associated water side turbulent mixing,
  • wave-induced currents in the presence of flexible surface covers, for example the wave-induced drift of oil slicks or the streaming beneath sea ice caused by incoming swell.


Investigation of physical processes responsible for the spreading of oil products in ice free and ice covered waters will help to develop
technology for the remediation of Arctic environment and reduction of environmental risks in the Arctic associated with oil contamination.
Surface waves propagating from clean waters into areas covered by a flexible surface cover, e.g. an oil slick or sea ice, will become (a) heavily damped due to frictional forces. The air-sea momentum fluxes that force the oceanic mean flows (b) depend on the waves and hence these will also be affected by the surface cover. In the wave damping process the waves exert a stress on the surface cover, hence (c) inducing mean flows that bring about changes in the surface cover properties, which will in turn impact on (a) the wave damping. Very few studies have considered the full coupling between the waves, the momentum fluxes, and the mean flow, and experimental evidence to validate components of such theories is lacking. The primary aims of the proposed project are to determine

  • how different surface covers will damp waves,
  • how these surface covers impact on the air-sea fluxes,
  • how much of the lost wave momentum will lead to increased mean flow,
  • how the near surface turbulence and effective viscosity are affected by the covers.

To answer these questions we will use theory, field measurements, and highly accurate laboratory experiments, in an attempt to close the gap between observations and theory. We will also identify and analyse the processes that are most relevant for improving our operational oil spill and sea ice drift models.



This project is financed by the Reseach Council of Norway (external link) under the PETROMAKS2 scheme. Funding ID: 233901

Published Apr. 8, 2014 4:23 PM - Last modified Feb. 11, 2021 10:03 AM


Detailed list of participants