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Winds - Measuring ocean winds from space
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Winds Over the Ocean
Remote Sensing of Ocean Surface Winds
One of the fundamental problems faced by oceanographers is the sheer size of the oceans. Oceans cover 70 per cent of the Earth's surface. Remote sensing allows measurements to be made of vast areas of ocean repeated at intervals in time.

As the largest source of momentum for the ocean surface, winds affect the full range of ocean movement - from individual surface waves to complete current systems. Winds over the ocean modulate air-sea exchanges of heat, moisture, gases, and particulates. This modulation regulates the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean, which establishes and maintains both global and regional climates.

The tropical Pacific Ocean and overlying atmosphere react to, and influence each other. Easterly surface winds along the equator control the amount and temperature of the water that upwells (moves or flows upward) to the surface. This upwelling of cold water determines sea-surface temperature distribution, which affects rainfall distribution. This in turn determines the strength of the easterly winds - a continuous cycle.

In the United States alone, hurricanes have been responsible for at least 17,000 deaths since 1900 and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage annually. Worldwide, 1998 was the worst hurricane season in the last 200 years. There were ten hurricanes. One of them, Mitch, killed over 10,000 people in Central America.



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