A Novel Method to Discriminate Active from Residual Whitecaps Using Particle Image Velocimetry Academic Article uri icon


  • Whitecap foam generated by wind-driven wave breaking is distinguished as either active (stage A) or residual (stage B). Discrimination of whitecap stages is essential to quantify the influence of whitecaps on the physical and chemical processes at the marine boundary layer. This study provides a novel method to identify whitecap stages based on visible imagery using particle image velocimetry (PIV). Data used are from a Gulf of Mexico cruise where collocated infrared (IR) and visible cameras simultaneously recorded whitecaps. IR images were processed by an established thresholding method to determine stage A lifetime from brightness temperature. The visible images were also filtered using a thresholding method and then processed using PIV to estimate the average whitecap velocity. A linear relationship was established between the lifetime of stage A and the timescale of averaged velocity. This novel method allows stage A whitecap lifetime to be determined using whitecap velocity and provides an objective approach to separate whitecap stages. This method paves the way for future research to easily quantify whitecap stages using affordable off-the-shelf video cameras. Results, which include evidence that whitecaps stop advancing before stage A ends and may be an indication of bubble plume degassing, are discussed.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Yang, X., & Potter, H.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Yang, Xin||Potter, Henry

publication date

  • October 2021