It’s hurricane season, and with Hurricane Florence tearing up the East Cost and the Carolinas, the topic of hurricanes is all over the news. Most people have a general knowledge of hurricanes and the damage they cause, but the science behind how they are named and forecasted is very unique and interesting.
If you don’t know about either of these topics, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at some of the intriguing science behind hurricanes.
How Hurricanes Form
Hurricanes usually form over waters near the equator. Warm, moist air above the ocean rises upwards from the surface of the water. As the warm air rises, an area of low pressure is formed below. High pressure air from surrounding areas comes into low pressure area. As it becomes warmer and moister, it rises up, and starts swirling around with the already moist, warm air. This continues to happen, and as the warm, moist air cools off, it forms clouds, which subsequently grows and spins, fed by the water evaporating from the surface of the ocean and the heat of the ocean.
As it rotates faster, an eye is formed. The eye of a tropical storm/hurricane is the one part of the hurricane which is extremely calm, like the eye of a tornado, without any rains or harsh winds. When the rotating storm’s winds reach 39 miles per hour, the storm is called a tropical storm. If the winds reach 74 miles per hour, it is called a tropical cyclone, or a hurricane. Hurricanes usually weaken once they hit land since they are no longer fed by the heat and moisture from the ocean, but they can still travel a very long way and cause a lot of destruction before they die out.
The naming of hurricanes is actually a very unique and precise process. Oceanservice.noaa.gov says that, contrary to popular belief, the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center doesn’t choose or control the naming of hurricanes. Instead, the World Meteorological Organization established a strict procedure. For hurricanes that occur in the Atlantic Ocean, there is a list of male and female names which are rotated every six years. The list of names only changes if the hurricane is so damaging and deadly that it would go down in the history books, and it wouldn’t be proper to use it again as a name for another hurricane. In that case, the name is retired, and a new name is added to the list.
According to livescience.com, there are two components to forecasting hurricanes: its intensity and its path. Back in 1992, hurricane forecasts only gave people three days to prepare, but now, hurricane forecasts allow people up to five days, and soon up to a week. The increased number of satellites, use of supercomputers, and computer models of cyclones have helped meteorologists in recent days better forecast hurricanes.
The large amount of satellites available allow hurricane monitoring instruments to measure things like ocean currents, ocean temperature, and weather patterns for the season. These variables contribute to the formation of the hurricane and where it will make landfall.
So there you have it! You now know how hurricanes are formed, how they’re named, and how we forecast them today. In the event of a hurricane, make sure you and your family have a set plan for either riding out the storm, or in severe cases, evacuating. Thanks for reading! Stay safe in hurricane season, and stay tuned for more articles!