An image of Hurricane Sandy taken by the GOES-13 satellite on October 28. This category 1 hurricane
was huge, spanning a horizontal distance of about one-third the US continental landmass. The storm came onshore in New Jersey, and gradually moved northeast. The storm disrupted the lives of tens of millions in the eastern US, doing billions of dollars in damage, resulting in over 30 deaths. Visit the National Hurricane Center's webpage on Hurricane Sandy
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA
Hurricanes (also known as Tropical Cyclones)
As a strong hurricane heads towards a vulnerable coast, people take precautions - boarding up houses, packing the car, and evacuating. These massive storms can spell disaster for people in hurricane prone areas, so they are taken seriously. They are the most powerful of all weather systems and they are huge - 340 miles in diameter on average.
Hurricanes form in the tropics over warm ocean water and die down when they move over land or into higher latitudes. These storms are called hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons or tropical cyclones in other areas of the world. In the Northern Hemisphere the storms rotate counterclockwise and in the Southern Hemisphere they rotate clockwise due to the Coriolis Effect. At the center of the rotating storm is a small area of calm weather and clear skies called the eye. While the eye may be calm, the area directly around it - called the eyewall - is often the most dangerous part of the storm.
Hurricane damage in coastal areas is often due to storm surge, which floods coastal areas. Strong waves and wind also batter coastal areas. Hurricanes also cause a tremendous amount of rain. Not all storms are the same. Large and strong storms cause much more damage than small storms. Scales are used to describe the size of a hurricane. In the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used.
As hurricanes move, meteorologists try to forecast where and when the storm will reach land in order to warn people. Hurricanes are tracked over large distances with weather satellites. To forecast where the storm will go, meteorologists use computer models that take into account factors of the storm and the atmosphere. Since 1953 each hurricane has been given a name to help warn people that a storm was on its way.
In the North Atlantic, hurricanes typically happen between June 1st and November 30th. This is known as hurricane season. More hurricanes form in the North Atlantic between August and September than any other time of year. Other regions of the world have somewhat different timing of hurricane season, but in all areas the season overlaps with the summer months when the warmest temperatures fuel the powerful storms.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!Cool It!
is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store
You might also be interested in:
At the center of a fierce tropical storm, there is a small area where the weather is calm, the sky is clear, and the winds are just light breezes. This area is called the eye of the storm. As a hurricane...more
Wind is moving air. Warm air rises, and cool air comes in to take its place. This movement creates different pressures in the atmosphere which creates the winds around the globe. Since the Earth spins,...more
Each year scientists make predictions about the strength of the upcoming hurricane season. To make seasonal hurricane predictions, scientists look at climate models and climate events that are known to...more
The Atlantic hurricane season was active this year with 14 named storms and 10 hurricanes. (This was above the average of 10 named storms and 6 hurricanes.) The storms killed over 11,000 people and caused...more
The land which stretches from Texas to Manitoba is relatively flat, most of which is part of the Great Plains in the United States. The flat land is a good breeding ground for the storms which produce...more
Below is a list of some weather conditions that call for an advisory, watch, or warning. Heat Advisory/Warning: A heat advisory is issued when the daytime temperature will be 105ºF (40.6ºC) for three hours...more
From the National Weather Service, Miami, Florida, 11 a.m. EDT: Bonnie battering coastal North Carlina...Flood threat from rain increasing...Hurricane warnings remain in effect from Cape Romain, South...more