Relative rates of sea-air heat transfer and frictional drag in very high winds

Brian K. Haus, Dahai Jeong, Mark A. Donelan, Jun A. Zhang, Ivan Savelyev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Hurricanes are fueled by evaporation and convection from the ocean and they lose energy through the frictional drag of the atmosphere on the ocean surface. The relative rates of these processes have been thought to provide a limit on the maximum potential hurricane intensity. Here we report laboratory observations of these transfers for scaled winds equivalent to a strong Category 1 hurricane (38 ms-1). We show that the transfer coefficient ratio holds closely to a level of ∼0.5 even in the highest observed winds, where previous studies have suggested there is a distinct regime change at the air-sea interface. This value is well below the expected threshold value for intense hurricanes of 0.75. Recent three-dimensional model studies also find that the coefficient ratio can be much lower than 0.75, which suggests that other factors such as eyewall and/or vortex dynamics are responsible for the formation of very strong hurricanes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL07802
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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