I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Last week we discussed storm surge and freshwater flooding from hurricanes and why they are so dangerous to human populations. But what is a hurricane actually? Hurricanes are defined as intense tropical cyclones that spiral and can produce wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour and up to 160 miles per hour. So what does it take to create such a monstrous storm? To start, you need warm moist air from ocean waters, at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 26.5 degrees Celsius at the ocean surface, which are most common near the equator. This warm air rises from the surface of the ocean, leaving lower air pressure below it. As more air from the areas nearby pushes into this area of low pressure, it too becomes warm and moist, causing it to rise. As the warm air rises, it cools. This creates the condensation for cloud formation, and then thunderstorm creation. These systems rotate and grow as they feed off the warm ocean waters. As the system rotates faster and faster, it forms what’s known as the eye of the storm, an area with very low air pressure at the center of the system. The eye of the storm is often 20 to 30 miles wide (but can vary), and is what is known as the calm part of the storm. However, areas just outside the eye of the storm are known to have the strongest winds and rains of the hurricane. Because of the rotation of the Earth on its axis, storms forming north of the equator rotate counterclockwise, as the storms south of the equator spin clockwise. The path the storm takes is dependent on seasonal weather patterns, strong winds, water currents, and water/surface temperature of the ocean where it forms. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.
More Information and Links:
Contributing Professor: Dr. Courtney Schumacher
Information/Preparing for Hurricanes:
REALLY cool satellite images: