Ocean Impacts

Winds of hurricane speed over the ocean can create monstrous waves. For example, in 1995, the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II was rocked by a 70-ft (21-m) wave caused by distant hurricane Luis. The sea near a hurricane is chaotic, and an extreme hazard to shipping can occur in response to wave motion moving in many directions.

For comparison, strong winds, of course, also occur in winter storms over the open ocean. The risk to shipping and other activities from wave action, however, is generally less serious in such storms for two reasons. First, the wind blows primarily


in one direction in a given sector of a winter storm. Hence the waves move in concert with the wind. A ship can thus orient itself to minimize the effect of the waves. In a hurricane, winds change direction rapidly around the eye. The result is a chaotic sea with swells and waves propagating in a myriad of directions. A ship cannot simply steer into the running sea to reduce its risk since there is no one direction from which the waves come. Large waves also superimpose on top of each other, producing enormous swells.

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