- Hurricane Humor
- What are tropical storms and hurricanes?
- How do hurricanes form?
- When and where do hurricanes usually form?
- What are some of the hazards assocaited with hurricanes?
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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hurricanes are cyclones that develop over the warm tropical oceans and have sustained winds in excess of 64 knots (74 mph). But hurricane has stages of development starting as a tropical depression.
A tropical depression is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less. A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34-63 knots). And once an intense tropical weather system has a well defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher, it's classified as a hurricane. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called "typhoons," and similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called "cyclones."
Hurricanes are formed from thunderstorms. However, these thunderstorms can only grow to hurricane strength with cooperation from both the ocean and the atmosphere. First of all, the ocean water itself must be warmer than 26.5 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).
The heat and moisture from this warm water is ultimately the source of energy for hurricanes. Hurricanes will weaken rapidly when they travel over land or colder ocean waters -- locations with insufficient heat or moisture.
Related to having warm ocean water, high humidity is also required for hurricane development. High humidity reduces the amount of evaporation in clouds and maximizes the heat released due to more precipitation.
- In the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.
- For the United States, the peak hurricane threat exists from mid-August to late October.
- Each year on average, ten tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. About 5 hurricanes strike the United States coastline every 3 years. Of these five, two will be major hurricanes (category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).
- Storm surge is a large, often devastating dome of water often 50 to 100 miles wide that sweeps across the coastline near where a hurricane makes landfall. The stronger the hurricane and the shallower the offshore water, the higher the surge will be. Along the immediate coast, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property.
- Storm tide is a combination of the storm surge and the normal astronomical tide. If the storm surge arrives at the same time as the high tide, the water height will be even greater.
- Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph or more, can destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris, such as signs, roofing material, siding, and small items left outside, become flying missiles in hurricanes. Winds often stay above hurricane strength well inland.
- Heavy rains and widespread flooding often accompany hurricanes. This is the major threat to areas well inland.
- Hurricanes also produce tornadoes, which add to the their destructive power. These tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane. However, they can also occur near the eyewall.