Manifestation of surfactant films in underwater solar path images: numerical experiment

Appl Opt. 2021 Apr 10;60(11):3257-3265. doi: 10.1364/AO.417344.


This paper continues a series of studies on using underwater solar path imagery (USPI) to retrieve characteristics of wind-driven waves and their variations in the field of near-surface hydrophysical processes under the influence of surfactant films. Research is based on previously developed mathematical models of USPI and its statistical moments, the Elfouhaily spectrum of wind-driven waves, the Ermakov model of wave damping by a thin film, and the Cox-Munk result for a thick oil film. A high sensitivity of two statistical moments of USPI to variations of wind-wave conditions and viscoelastic characteristics of oil films was shown. The presented examples demonstrated 20%-40% narrowing of the statistically average image (the first statistical moment) for thin films and more than 2 times narrowing for thick films. The film presence also leads to significant changes in the autocorrelation function of USPI. The characteristic scales and magnitudes of changes in the considered statistical moments fit into the ranges of values that can be recorded in practice using even inexpensive video cameras. At the same time, there are cases in which these moments are close. For example, for a clean sea surface in weak winds and for a surface covered by a thin film in stronger winds. These cases can be distinguished by analyzing a series of instant images. As an example, a series of real underwater images demonstrating changes in the glint structure with the surfactant film spot passing through the observed sea surface area were analyzed. This example is intended to help researchers to distinguish cases of wind weakening and a surfactant film presence.