Harvey, Irma, José and Katia: What do We Know about Hurricanes?

As of this writing (September 12  ) two hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, have hit Texas, Louisiana, Florida and islands in the Caribbean.  Lives were lost and damage was in the billions of dollars. Also, sewage and toxic chemicals polluted the water and the air, causing potentially serious health risks.  So anyone cleaning up in the area could develop respiratory problems, cancer, or even have a heart attack.

What is a Hurricane?

Simply put, hurricanes are violent storms. They can cover a 600 mile area.  If you have experienced a hurricane, or seen them on TV, you noticed that the wind is so strong that people can’t stand up. Floods and massive destruction result from wind blowing at 75 to 200 miles per hour and from torrential downpours.

How do Hurricanes Start?

Hurricanes are formed when a group of thunderstorms come together over warm tropical water (at least 80⁰F) and rotate around an area of low pressure.  The wind must be blowing in the same direction and the same speed so that the air is forced upward from the ocean.

What is a Storm Surge?

Strong winds create high waves and push the water onto shore. The surge can be as high as 30 feet, which is about as high as a 3 story building. Storm surges cause most of the fatalities and damage in a hurricane. This may remind you of tsunamis. Although the result is the same, tsunamis are usually caused by earthquakes, mudslides or volcanoes.

What do the Hurricane Categories Mean?

As you might have guessed, the higher the Category number is, the more dangerous the storm. The category is based mainly on wind speeds. So Category 1 wind speeds (74-95 mph) will cause some damage and Category 5 (157+mph) can completely destroy an area.

Why do Hurricanes Happen in the Late Summer and Early Fall?

Although hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, most hurricanes take place in August and September, when the oceans are warmest.

Does Climate Change have Anything to do with Hurricanes?

According to scientists, the answer is a definite yes.  Climate change has caused the temperature of the air and the oceans to increase.  How did this happen?  Our atmosphere has a huge amount of carbon dioxide and methane gas in the air due to burning oil, gas and coal. This traps the heat and, as a result, the oceans get warmer, and there are more hurricanes.

Where does the Energy of Hurricanes Come From?

When the ocean gets much warmer than usual, the warm water increases the amount of moisture in the air above the ocean surface. When the moist air rises, it cools and the moisture condenses into liquid water. As it does this it releases a lot of heat and that causes the air to rise even higher and move faster. This rising air forms a violent storm that reaches high into the atmosphere. As the air with all that water moves away from the center of the storm, the water falls back to earth as rain. This rain carries so much water that sometimes the rain falls so fast that the land surface and the rivers can’t carry it away fast enough and that causes major floods that wash away cars, trees, and even houses.

How are Hurricanes Named?

In 1953 the U.S. Weather Bureau started naming hurricanes, only using women’s names. In 1979 men’s names were included. The only names that are not used more than once are for hurricanes that did substantial damage.  Maybe Harvey will be deleted.

Check out Readorium books and videos for more information.

Leave a Reply