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Emerging Science Note/Eye-Catching

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Max Thelander reports on a study that finds exactly what's going on in the very eye of a hurricane for the first time.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: a dozen years after the collapse of their fishing industry and the loss of 30,000 jobs, Newfoundlanders troll for tourists, instead of cod. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Max Thelander.


THELANDER: Ever since Melville wrote Moby Dick, towering walls of water have filled the lore of mariners. Until recently, there wasn’t much evidence to back up these tales, as most scientific instruments are destroyed by the storms they are intended to track. But this week, the Naval Research Laboratory revealed some startling measurements taken last September as Hurricane Ivan crossed the Gulf of Mexico.

During Ivan, the scientists lucked out as their moorings off the coast of Louisiana managed to survive a direct hit. This allowed them to record what goes on in the eye of a major hurricane for the first time.

One wave measured in at an astonishing 91 feet tall, the largest ever recorded, and big enough to snap a ship in two. Scientists say that some unmeasured waves near the eye wall likely exceeded 130 feet. What’s more, experts now believe that such waves are fairly common within hurricanes, and are not a rogue phenomenon as was once thought. These natural monstrosities may account for ships that have mysteriously disappeared at sea.

The National Weather Service recently upped their hurricane forecast, predicting 18 to 21 named storms in 2005. These super waves don’t pose a direct threat to landlubbers, breaking up before they reach the coast. But they may spell bad news for those of you planning a cruise ship vacation.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Max Thelander.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, online at mott.org, supporting efforts to promote a just, equitable and sustainable society; The Kresge Foundation, building the capacity of non-profit organizations through challenge grants since 1924, on the web at kresge.org; The Annenberg Fund for Excellence in communications and education; and at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, from vision to innovative impact, 75 years of philanthropy. This is NPR, National Public Radio.



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