How and Why Hurricanes Happen

By Violet Wallerstein

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                                                                                                                                                                                                   From WSBTV

With the storms in this year’s hurricane season seeming to be of unprecedented strength, one must wonder how and why the weather in the last decade has become so extreme.

According to NASA, hurricanes form when warm air over the ocean rises, leaving a space of low pressure over the surface of the water. Then, more air moves to the low pressure groups and simultaneously warms and rises. As the air cools, it condenses and forms clouds, but the warm air on the surface of the ocean continues to rise, pushing up the clouds and creating the swirling pattern that is typical of tropical storms. Due to the earth’s rotation, hurricanes that form below the equator rotate clockwise while storms north of the equator rotate counterclockwise. As the storm builds, low-pressure area forms in the middle called the “eye” of the storm. With wind speeds of 39mph or higher, it is categorized as a tropical storm, and wind speeds of 74mph or higher are hurricanes with rankings of category 1-5 based on the wind speed and storm surge.

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says that while global climate change may not increase or decrease the number of storms, it could intensify the storms that do form. The warmer ocean and air will increase maximum windspeed by 2-11 percent and increase the amount of rainfall by 20 percent. Additionally, the prediction of ocean levels rising one to four feet will increase the amount of coastal storm surge which is what causes a lot of damage when storms hit. In the United States, there is a predicted increase of category 4 and 5 hurricanes by 75 percent while there may be a decrease in frequency of tropical storms overall.

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