Hurricane season begins on June 1st, and it ends on November 30th. If you have ever experienced a hurricane, you know how scary they can be. Between the strong winds, the heavy rains, and the flooding, hurricanes can be devastating. Here are 12 powerful facts about hurricanes that you may not know.
Storms Are Only Called Hurricanes In North America
A tropical cyclone is a low-pressure system that draws energy from the warm ocean water. When a tropical cyclone matures in the Atlantic or the eastern Pacific Ocean, it is called a hurricane. If this happens in Asia, it is called a typhoon. If it happens anywhere else in the world, it is called a cyclone.
Hurricanes Come In All Shapes and Sizes
All hurricanes are not the same. Some are so disorganized that it takes weather experts to spot them. Hurricanes can be as small as a few miles across, and others can be as large as half of the United States. This was the case with Typhoon Tip in the western Pacific ocean in 1979. The smallest tropical storm ever recorded was Tropical Storm Marco in 2008. It only extended 12 miles from the eye of the storm, which is smaller than the length of Manhattan. When there is a hurricane, you never know how big or small it will be.
The Eyewall Is the Greatest Danger In a Hurricane
Hurricanes have spiraling bands of wind and rain that radiate from the center. This is what gives hurricanes their distinctive buzzsaw shape. While these bands can be damaging and can cause flooding and tornadoes, the worst part of the hurricane is the eyewall. This is a tight group of thunderstorms rage in the center of the storm. The most severe winds occupy the eyewall. The most severe damage occurs when this part of the storm comes up on shore.
The Eye Of a Hurricane Is Very Warm
Because hurricanes are tropical, the eye is very warm. It forms when the air rushes down from the upper levels of the atmosphere and fill the void that is left when the by the low air pressure close to the surface. The air dries out and heats up very rapidly. In the case of an intense hurricane, the temperature of the eye can reach 80 degrees while it is thousands of feet above the Earth’s surface, where it usually is very cold.
You Can Learn A Lot About A Hurricane By Its Eye
The eye of the hurricane can tell you a lot about it and what you should expect. If the eye is ragged and asymmetrical, it means that the storm is struggling to gain strength. If it is round and smooth, it means that the storm is very strong and stable. A tiny eye, also known as a pinpoint eye, means that it will be a very intense storm.
Hurricanes Can Have Two Eyes
The eye of a storm doesn’t last forever. Storms can go through a process called the eyewall replacement cycle, which is where a storm develops a new eye to replace the old one. During this cycle, the storm can weaken, but when the new eye forms, it can be even more intense than it was with the first eye. An example of this was with Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The impact of the storm was less severe because the eyewall replacement occurred right before it made its closest approach to land.
The Strong Winds Are Only Part Of the Danger
The strong winds caused by hurricanes is what you always hear about on the news, but the wind isn’t the most dangerous part of a hurricane. More than half of the deaths that result from hurricanes are due to the storm surges, or the ocean water that gets pushed to the immediate coast. It isn’t only coastal areas that can be flooded during a hurricane. During Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the water was pushed so far inland, that homes miles from the coast were submerged in water.
California Rarely Ever Experiences Tropical Cyclones
Even though California occupies hundreds of miles of coastline, there are rarely ever tropical cyclones. It is nothing like the East Coast, which seems to face strong hurricanes every hurricane season. This is because the ocean water in California is too cold to sustain a storm like this. There have only been a few storms ever recorded in California, and the worst one hit San Diego in 1858.
Hurricane Hunters Fly Right Into the Storm
Satellite and radar imagery can tell us about a storm, but we can get more information from Hurricane Hunters. They are a group of people from the Air Force and the NOAA who fly specially outfitted airplanes right into the eye of the storm. They measure the winds and report their findings. This started in World War II and has been an important storm measuring tool ever since.
Hurricane Hunters Drop Sensors To Measure the Waves
Hurricane hunters have all sorts of tools to gauge the strength of a storm. Their tools can measure wind, pressure, temperature, and moisture. There are weather radars on board that can give them a detailed view of the storm. They also drop sensors into the ocean that measure the waves and the seafoam, which can estimate how strong the wind is on the surface.
We Started Naming Storms To Keep Track of Them
We started naming storms in the 50s to help keep track of them. When two storms were happening at the same time, it was hard for meteorologists to talk about them without confusing the public. Since then, naming hurricanes has become a worldwide thing. Today, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean receive a list of alternating male and female names, and they are reused every six years.
Names are Retired If a Storm Was Incredibly Destructive
If a storm was particularly destructive, the name is retired out of respect for the families of the storm victims as well as the survivors. When a name is retired, a new name with the same letter takes its place. Hurricane Katrina was retired for a good reason. In 2018, the names Florence and Michael were retired due to the damage that they caused during 2018. They have been replaced with Francine and Milton, which will be used when the list is reused in 2024.