Hurricane Emilys 140-mile-per-hour winds, which last week blew roofs off hotels and flattened trees throughout the Caribbean, owed their force to an unlikely culprit – ocean spray.
According to a new study by two University of California, Berkeley, mathematicians and their Russian colleague, the water droplets kicked up by rough seas serve to lubricate the swirling winds of hurricanes and cyclones, letting them build to speeds approaching 200 miles per hour. Without the lubricating effect of the spray, the mathematicians estimate, winds would rise to little more than 25 miles per hour.
"This is not a small effect," said Alexandre Chorin, professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley and faculty researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). He and fellow UC Berkeley mathematics professor Grigory I. Barenblatt, also of LBNL, along with V. M. Prostokishin of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow, published their analysis of the effect of ocean spray in the Early Online Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Robert Sanders | EurekAlert!
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