As a reference point for the extreme Metocean conditions, the hurricane-scale classification is often used: that is a tropical storm becomes a hurricane if the wind speed reaches U ∼ 33m/s. In this paper, it is argued that such classification is not arbitrary, and indeed signifies change of the physical regimes in all environments near the air-sea interface: in the atmospheric boundary layer, at the surface, and through the upper ocean. This threshold is approximately the wind speed at which the drag coefficient was found to saturate in the field observations (U10 ≈ 32–33m/s), which saturation has received a lot of attention. Less known are the observations that below the surface, change of the upper-ocean mixing mechanism and of bubble dynamics occur at U10 > 35m/s. Directly at the surface, wave dynamics also undergoes essential transformations, from wave breaking (dissipation) being driven by evolution of nonlinear waves, to the breaking being forced directly by the winds, at U10 ≈ 34 m/s. It is therefore argued that the simultaneous change of physical regime in all the three air-sea environments cannot be coincidental, and consequences of the regime change for the Metocean modelling are discussed. As an important byproduct, parameterisation of wave-breaking probability is obtained in terms of the mean symmetry of surface waves. Such parameterisation allows us to estimate frequency of breaking events, based on time series of surface elevations, without explicitly detecting the breaking waves.

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