Measurements of the air-sea interface in very high sea states present a difficult challenge for both remote sensing techniques and in-situ moored or shipboard instrumentation. Satellite-based remote-sensing techniques generally lose accuracy in high sea states due to an insufficient understanding of the inverted measured parameter (i.e. microwave scattering, EM bias, passive microwave). In-situ measurements are difficult to obtain due to the environmental strain placed on the instrumentation and moorings. Shipboard measurements in high sea states are either too costly for long term measurements or present a danger to the shipboard personnel. With significant effort and cost, moorings and surface buoys can be designed to withstand the rigors of the sea surface during these conditions. The statistical nature of very high wind events such as hurricanes, typhoons, and large winter storms requires that moorings be deployed over long periods of time in order to raise the probability of capturing useable data throughout the course of the event. The recent improvement of synoptic, predictive models of storm events presents and opportunity to adaptively sample the upper ocean during storms and high sea states. Light weight, low cost instrumentation can strategically be placed in the path of storm events.

This proposal presents a 5-year program consisting of instrumentation development and field deployments of that instrumentation in east coast hurricanes. The development of an air-deployable instrument designed to measure surface waves, wave breaking, wind speed, rainfall (via acoustic ambient noise inversions), mean currents, and temperature and salinity fluctuations is the foundation of this program. These measurements will give a better understanding the mixed layer response to storm events. Both the measurement platform and integrated sensors will be based on proven field technology. This research has application to many aspects of air-sea interaction including mass, momentum, heat, and energy fluxes. We anticipate that the results of this research will lead to a better understanding of these processes and provide for improvements in medeling of the air-sea interface and ocean surface mixed layer under extreme conditions. Furthermore, we anticipate the utility of the instrumentation will lend itself to other extreme weather research and operational hurricane monitoring efforts that are outside the CBLAST inititative.