A Complete and Exhaustive Guide to Hurricanes – part two
Here we try and understand what it takes for a hurricane in the NorthAtlanticBasin to actually form.
An existing weather disturbance, warm ocean currents, moisture-laden air, light winds, and forming north of around 5° North latitude – these are the prerequisites for the formation of a hurricane. If these conditions can be sustained for a period of time, then we will have on our hands violent winds, heavy rain, massive waves, and severe flooding that we associate with hurricanes.
Three-fourths of the tropical cyclones that occur in the Atlantic Ocean originate from the coast of Africa. The Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea throw up around ten tropical storms each year; of these around six develop into hurricanes and in a year around two are liable to hit the coast of the United States. In a three-year period if five hurricanes hit America, around two will be of 96 knots and fall under the category of major hurricanes.
Let us try and understand how a tropical cyclone develops into a hurricane –
Heat and moisture are transported up into the upper levels of the atmosphere. Cyclonic winds raise the heat and moisture into the higher levels of the atmosphere and aid in the formation of the cyclone.
Moist atmospheric conditions in the middle troposphere are required. This means that there should be moisture at around 10,000 to 20,000 feet above sea level.
The sea water temperature has to be warm, i.e. around 26 ºC. At the same time there should be a mixed layer depth of around 200 feet. This means that even if the winds pick up and ocean waters start churning, warm waters required for hurricane formation are available to the weather system.
Cyclone conditions prosper in vertically stacked conditions; this means that low wind shear is essential. Winds should not disturb the set-up and these should remain constant in direction and speed.
A hurricane can move over the ocean for a fortnight and raise waves that are more than 50 ft. in height. Satellites can pick up tropical storms as unorganized thunderstorm clusters. These clusters can lead to the generation of a cyclone depression with wind speeds touching 33 knots. At this junction the storm begins to appear as the spiral that one associates with a hurricane. As the surface winds touch speeds up to 64 knots, the system is classified a hurricane. It is at this point that the eye of the storm is formed in the inner areas of the cyclone. The cyclone will continue to grow so long as it is fed with the necessary elements or till such time that one or more of the necessary conditions cease to exist.
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