Analysis of the effect of fish oil on wind waves and implications for air–water interaction studies
Surfactant layers with viscoelastic properties floating on the water surface dampen short gravity-capillary waves. Taking advantage of the known virtue of fish oil to still angry seas, a laboratory study has been made to analyse wind-wave generation and the interaction between wind waves, paddle waves, and airflow. This was done in a tank containing a thin fish-oil film uniformly spread on the water surface. The research was aimed, on the one hand, at quantifying for the first time the effectiveness of this surfactant at impeding the generation of wind waves and, on the other, at using the derived conditions to disentangle relevant mechanisms involved in the air–sea interaction. In particular, our main interest concerned the processes acting on the wind stress and on the wave growth. With oil on the water surface, we have found that in the wind-only condition (no paddle waves) the wave field does not grow from the rest condition. This equilibrium is altered by irregular paddle (long) waves, the generation and evolution of short waves (in clean water and with oil) being modified by their interaction with the orbital velocity of the long waves and their effect on the airflow. Paddle waves do grow under the action of wind, the amount being similar in clean and oily water conditions, a fact we ascribe to the similar distortion of the wind vertical profile in the two cases. We have also verified that the wind-supported stress on the oily water surface was able to generate a surface current, whose magnitude turns out to be comparable to the one in clean water. We stress the benefits of experiments with surfactants to explore in detail the physics at, and the exchanges across, the wavy and non-wavy air–water interface.