Sensible and latent heat can cross the air–sea interface by two routes: as interfacial fluxes controlled by molecular processes right at the interface, and as spray fluxes from the surface of sea spray droplets. Once the 10-m wind speed over the ocean reaches approximately 11–13 m s−1, the spray sensible and latent heat fluxes become significant fractions (i.e., 10% or greater) of the corresponding interfacial fluxes. The analysis here establishes that result by combining the Tropical Ocean-Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE) version 2.6 bulk interfacial flux algorithm with a microphysical spray model to partition measured heat fluxes from two good high-wind datasets into spray and interfacial flux contributions. The measurements come from the Humidity Exchange over the Sea (HEXOS) experiment and the Fronts and Atlantic Storm-Tracks Experiment (FASTEX); wind speeds in these two datasets span 5 to 20 m s−1.
After the measured heat fluxes are separated into spray and interfacial contributions, the spray fluxes are used to develop a fast spray flux algorithm to combine with the COARE version 2.6 interfacial flux algorithm in a unified turbulent surface flux algorithm for use in large-scale and ocean storm models. A sensitivity analysis of the spray and interfacial components of this unified flux algorithm demonstrates how the two component fluxes scale differently with the mean meteorological variables and why they must therefore be parameterized separately in models intended to treat air–sea fluxes in high winds.