A hurricane is a rotating tropical storm with winds of at least 119 kilometers (74 miles) an hour.Video courtesy of James Reynolds / Getty Images
The scientific name for all three is tropical cyclone.
Whatever their names, they are all formed in the same way and are capable of destroying areas and causing massive death tolls.
Hurricanes spin with a counterclockwise spin in the Northern Hemisphere and a clockwise spin in the Southern Hemisphere.
The word ‘hurricane’ comes from huracan, the Carib Indian name for the storm god.
Once a hurricane forms, it has three main parts.
1. THE EYE — usually between 32 to 48 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) wide.
Air sinks inside the eye, clearing the skies and making it relatively calm. This calm often fools people into believing the storm has passed when in fact they are in the middle of it.
2. THE EYE WALL — surrounds the eye.
The hurricane's fastest, most violent winds and most intense rains are here. Air is rising fastest here and condensation rates are maximized in the towering cumulonimbus clouds.
3. RAIN BANDS — the outermost layer of the hurricane.
Rain bands are the first signs of the coming storm.
Tropical cyclones are fueled by warm, moist air, which is why they only form over warm oceans that are near the equator. The map below shows you where hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons form.
Select theto see which direction hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones travel in and when their seasons are.
The Western Pacific sees more tropical storms and typhoons each year than any other ocean basin.
Rises in sea level will most likely cause higher coastal inundation levels for tropical cyclones that occur.
Tropical cyclone rainfall rates are likely to increase.
The global proportion of Category 4 and 5 tropical cyclones is likely to increase, resulting in storms of unprecedented strength.
Hurricanes do have an important job. Tropical cyclones bring nutrient-rich colder water from depth up to the surface – resulting in algal blooms in their wake.
Meteorologists use the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale to rank a hurricane's intensity. Wind speeds determine which category a hurricane falls into.
Select a category to find out about the level of damage done.
Over open waters, hurricanes can decrease sea surface temperature and create dangerous conditions for boats.
Once a hurricane rages onto land, however, it can bring with it:
An average hurricane can drop more than 9 trillion liters (2.4 trillion gallons) of rain per day.
9 trillion liters (2.4 trillion gallons)
is equivalent to the water you would use by having
a shower that lasts for 2.2 million years
Hurricanes that have made landfall can spawn tornadoes hundreds of kilometers away from the center in the outer rain bands. This is where the wind is similar to thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.
Deadly storm surges are the most dangerous aspect of hurricanes.
cause flooding – a major killer
cause beach erosion
wash out roads
sweep away railroads
decimate homes, businesses, marinas, and piers
More than 6,000 people drowned in 1900 when a six-meter (20-foot) surge flooded Galveston, Texas.
In 1970 a North Indian Ocean cyclone devasted East Pakistan (today known as Bangladesh) and killed between 300,000 to 500,000 people with a six-meter (20-foot) surge – making the storm the world’s deadliest tropical cyclone. Meteorologists knew that the storm was approaching but had no way to communicate to the people of the affected coastal areas.
Once a storm forms, meteorologists pinpoint its location and intensity. They use satellites to look for developments in the storm such as rotating storm bands.
The only way to accurately measure pressure and winds is for forecasters to head straight into the storm. “Hurricane hunters" in radar-equipped planes are sent in to gather information.
A six-person crew flies straight into the hurricane. They take measurements at 30-second intervals of
The data is sent by satellite directly to the National Hurricane Center.
The crew also drops packets called dropwindsondes into storms to get readings on
The dropwindsondes relay data back to the plane every five meters (15 feet) as they descend to the ocean.
Using this data and computer simulations, meteorologists predict the hurricane's potential path.
Hurricane Watch if a hurricane poses a possible threat;
Hurricane Warning once it's determined that a hurricane is likely to hit within 36 hours.