Do High-Frequency Radars Measure the Wave-Induced Stokes Drift?
Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
High-frequency (HF) radars remotely measure ocean near-surface currents based on the Doppler shift of electromagnetic waves backscattered by surface gravity waves with half the electromagnetic wavelength, called Bragg waves. Since their phase velocity is affected not only by wave-current interactions with vertically sheared mean Eulerian currents but also by wave-wave interactions with all the other waves present at the sea surface, HF radars should measure a quantity related to the Stokes
... to the Stokes drift in addition to mean Eulerian currents. However, the literature is inconsistent-both theoretically and experimentally-on the specific expression and even on the existence of the Stokes drift contribution to the HF radar measurements. Three different expressions that have been proposed in the literature are reviewed and discussed in light of the relevant published experimental results: 1) the weighted depth-averaged Stokes drift, 2) the filtered surface Stokes drift, and 3) half of the surface Stokes drift. Effective measurement depths for these three expressions are derived for the Phillips wave spectrum. Recent experimental results tend to discard the second expression but are not inconsistent with the first and third expressions. The latter is physically appealing, since it is a quasi-Eulerian quantity that would be measured by a current meter at a fixed horizontal position but allowed to follow the free surface moving vertically up and down with the passage of the waves. A definitive answer will require further experimental investigations.