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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Wind Speed and Wave Height

Yes, there is a high degree of correlation between wind speed and significant wave height in the images.

Simultaneous observations of wind speed and wave height are helping scientists to predict ocean waves. Shown below is the global distribution of wind speed. Wind speed is determined by the strength of the radar signal after it has bounced off the ocean surface and returned to the satellite. A calm sea serves as a good reflector and returns a strong signal; a rough sea tends to scatter the signals and returns a weak pulse.

Comparing the two images above shows a strong tie between wind speed and wave height. The strongest winds (over 54 kilometers per hour or 33.6 miles per hour) and highest waves are found in the Southern Ocean. The weakest winds -- shown as areas of magenta and dark blue -- are generally found in the tropical Oceans.

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