Published on April 14th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie1
Hurricanes: Nature’s Most Devastating Storms
They are one of the most destructive forces found in nature. They can engulf entire countries and kill millions. Yet, we still don’t know what their function is, if they have a function at all. These beasts of nature are hurricanes.
A hurricane or tropical storm system consists of a massive low-pressure center in its eye and thunderstorms that produce strong winds. They rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. They orignate in the doldrums roughly ten degrees north and south of the equator.
‘Typhoon and hurricane are regionally specific words for a tropical cyclone’ according to the author G.J. Holland. Developing over large bodies of warm water, if they go on land they quickly lose their strength and die out.
How Hurricanes Are Formed
Hurricanes are generally found north and south of the doldrums, a place where northern and southern winds meet. They occur because warm air heats the equator causing it to rise. As the warm air rises, cold air takes it place. This zone of cold, low air pressure, can create huge storm fronts.
Meanwhile the hot air travels both north and south to the horse latitudes which are the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. Once the warm air reaches the horse latitudes it starts to sink back in an area of high pressure. As the air gets colder due to sinking some of it is diverted between the north and south. The cold air returning to the equator becomes the doldrums and so the cycle is repeated endlessly.
These cycles of cold and hot air also provide ideal hurricane conditions.
How Hurricanes Are Classed
Hurricanes are often classified according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The scale is divided into escalating categories with increasing wind speeds.
- Category one has a wind speed of 119 to 153 kilometres (74 to 95 miles) per hour.
- Category two is between 154 and 177 kilometres (96 to 110 miles) per hour.
- Category three is 178 to 209 kilometres (111 to 130 miles) per hour.
- Category four is 210 to 249 kilometres (131 to 155 miles) per hour.
- Finally category five are winds that exceed 249 kilometres (155 miles) per hour.
The Famous Eye
A large area of sinking air forms the eye of a hurricane. The size of the eye can vary from just a couple of kilometres to over 350 kilometres (220 miles) across.
As the hurricane increases windspeed, the eye becomes smaller. When hurricanes reach the peak of their intensity, the eye walls enclose and the eye can measure less than 30 kilometres (17 miles) in diameter.
The Most Destructive Hurricane
The worst hurricane on record hit Bangladesh in November, 1970. Over one million people were killed due to flooding caused by the storm system.
Hurricanes’ vast size and high winds, which can reach over 300km/hr make them one of the most destructive forces of nature. When hurricanes strike land, they drag high levels of water with them, this is known as a storm surge. The storm surge often causes great flooding and damage to homes.
An average of 11 hurricanes a year hits North America each year and know one needs to be reminded about the devasting effects of Hurricane Katrina.
We may still not know how to stop hurricanes. Or what their role in nature is, but even if we have the knowledge to both understand and stop hurricanes it is unlikely that our fascination with the most destructive storm found in nature will ever diminish.
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Check out Yellow Magpie’s Tornadoes: A Force Of Nature Like No Other for insight into an awesome force of nature.
For those looking at an interesting and entertaining read on the subject of hurricanes, look no further than Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-Defying Adventures in Extreme Weather. This book by storm chasers Reed Timmer truly captures the visceral experience of hurricanes and high speed winds.
You can obtain Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-defying Adventures in Extreme Weather here from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access Into the Storm here.
For those living in Canada you can obtain Into The Storm from here.
For Germany: Into the Storm.
For France: Into the Storm.