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Wave's-eye view of a hurricane

Strong hurricanes aren't as effective as weak ones at transmitting wind energy to the ocean's surface, a counterintuitive finding that may enable researchers to better estimate the size of storm surges.

When winds blow across the ocean, aerodynamic drag—friction where air and water meet—transfers some of the wind's momentum to the water. That transfer creates waves and currents. Scientists have long presumed that higher wind speeds result in higher drag and larger momentum transfers, says William J. Teague, an oceanographer at the Naval Research Laboratory in Bay St. Louis, Miss. However, he and his colleagues now report field data that contradict that notion.

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