A joint experiment to study microscale fluctuations of atmospheric pressure above surface gravity waves was conducted in the Bight of Abaco, Bahamas, during November and December 1974. Field hardware included a three-dimensional array of six wave sensors and seven air-pressure sensors, one of which was mounted on a wave follower. The primary objectives of the study were to resolve differences in previous field measurements by Dobson (1971), Elliott (1972b) and Snyder (1974), and to estimate the vertical profile of wave-induced pressure and the corresponding input of energy and momentum to the wave field.
Analysis of a pre-experiment intercalibration of instruments and of 30 h of field data partially removes the discrepancy between the previous measurements of the wave-induced component of the pressure and gives a consistent picture of the profile of this pressure over a limited range of dimensionless height and wind speed. Over this range the pressure decays approximately exponentially without change of phase; the decay is slightly less steep than predicted by potential theory. The corresponding momentum transfer is positive for wind speeds exceeding the phase speed. Extrapolation of present results to higher frequencies suggests that the total transfer is a significant fraction of the wind stress (0·1 to 1·0, depending on dimensionless fetch).
Analysis of the turbulent component of the atmospheric pressure shows that the ‘intrinsic’ downwind coherence scale is typically an order-of-magnitude greater than the crosswind scale, consistent with a ‘frozen’ turbulence hypothesis. These and earlier data of Priestley (1965) and Elliott (1972c) suggest a horizontally isotropic ‘intrinsic’ turbulent pressure spectrum which decays as k−ν where k is the (horizontal) wave-number and ν is typically −2 to −3; estimates of this spectrum are computed for the present data. The implications of these findings for Phillips’ (1957) theory of wave growth are examined.