Hurricane Facts: Astonishing Things (You Might Not Know)
Hurricanes are some of the most terrifying and destructive severe weather events on Earth. Almost everyone has seen their destructive capabilities at least once in their life. However, not many people know much else about them. How they are formed, why they are increasing in power in the recent years, when we should be on the lookout for them, how are those names picked. There are a lot of hurricane facts that should be known to both raise awareness and to educate the masses.
Let’s start off with one of the simple hurricane facts. What are hurricanes? Hurricanes are large, swirling storms. They can produce winds that exceed 74 miles per hour. These winds can damage anything from trees to buildings. Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters and sometimes hit land. When that happens, it throws a wall of ocean water onto shore. This water wall is called a storm surge. The storm surge along with heavy rain that is brought with hurricanes, can result in flooding. Once a hurricane forms, meteorologists start to predict its path. They can also predict how strong it will get and if it has the possibility of changing course or getting even stronger.
There are 5 types of hurricanes, called categories. These are very crucial hurricane facts, because the category shows the strength of the storm. The scale of categories is called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. These categories are based upon the speed of the wind that the hurricane produces.
- First category, the storm will have wind speeds from 74-95 miles per hour.
- Here, the wind speeds will be 96-110 miles per hour.
- Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes. The wind speeds will be from 111-129 miles per hour.
- Speeds of the wind will be from 130-156 miles per hour.
- Wind speeds over 157 miles per hour.
Obviously, category 5 hurricanes are by far the most powerful and destructive. However, no category 5 hurricanes have yet to make landfall anywhere. Many that were category 5, for example, Hurricanes Rick and Patricia, decreased to category 4 hurricanes by the time they hit the land. Hurricane Katrina, one of the most destructive hurricanes in recent U.S. history was only a category 3 when it made landfall.
The reason for the lack of landfalls is that tropical storms in the northern hemisphere usually travel west. In the Atlantic Ocean, this send hurricanes towards North America. Eastern Pacific, this sends the storms out into open waters, which causes them to dissipate over cooler waters. The only heavily populated island in the eastern Pacific is Hawaii. They are protected from most hurricanes by a subtropical ridge and are small enough to avoid getting hit all together.
Parts of a Hurricane
One of the basic hurricane facts that should be known is the parts that make up a hurricane. Hurricanes are made up of three parts. These parts make up the overall strength of the hurricane.
- Eye- The eye of the hurricane is the hole at the center of the storm. In this area, winds are minimal and the skies are often partially cloudy or even clear.
- Eye Wall- The eye wall is a ring of powerful thunderstorms that swirl around the eye. Here, winds are strongest and rain is the heaviest.
- Rain Bands- These are the circle of clouds that stretch out from the center of the hurricane. These bands can stretch for hundreds of miles and contain thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes.
How Hurricanes are Formed
One of the truly amazing hurricane facts is how they are formed and why. How can a simple storm, turn into a giant, swirling ball of destruction? At the beginning, a hurricane starts out as a tropical disturbance. This is an area over warm ocean waters where rain clouds are building. That disturbance will can grow into a system called a tropical depression. This is an area of rotating thunderstorms with winds around 38 mph or less. The depression then becomes a tropical storm if the winds reach above 39 mph. Between 1968 and 2016, there have been an average of 11 tropical storms per year. Since 2000, we have rarely seen less than 10 tropical storms per year.
Once the wind speeds reach 74 mph, the tropical storm turns into a hurricane. The average number of hurricanes in general between ‘68 and 2016 is 6 per year, with major hurricanes, categories 3-5, appearing only 2 per year. Again, since 2000, we have seen more and more hurricanes popping up. In 2005, there were 15 hurricanes in total, with 7 of them being category 3 or above. Just last year, we saw 7 hurricanes, with 4 of them category 3 or higher.
As for why they form, scientists do not know exactly. All they know is that there two main ingredients that are needed. The first is warm water. Warm ocean temperatures provide the energy the storm needs to become a hurricane. Usually, the surface temperature must be 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). The second thing is constant winds. When winds change direction a lot when they rise in the air, it can rip the storms apart.
Hurricane Name Facts
Katrina, Harvey, Andrew, Matthew. Every time a tropical storm is found, it is given a name. Why is this? This is one of the very interesting hurricane facts and it is actually very simple. There can be more than one hurricane at any given time. The names given to the hurricanes make them easier to keep track of. The name given to tropical storms, stays with the storm regardless of if it changes into a hurricane.
In the time of Native Americans, they first called these huge storm systems after a great spirit who commands the east wind, Hurakons. When the Spanish started their conquest and discovered the Native Americans, they adopted their name for the storms and also began giving hurricanes names of patron saints. The name of the saint depended on whose feast days the storm happened to occur near. That quickly died out and was replaced by the longitude and latitude of the storms.
An Australian weatherman was actually the first person to name a tropical storm after a female. By World War 2, meteorologists in the U.S. military named the storms after their girlfriends and wives. In fact, the first storm in the Atlantic Ocean named for a man was called Hurricane Bob.
In modern times, the naming process is much different. Every year, tropical storms are named in alphabetical order. The names come from a list of names for that year. There are six lists of names and they are reused every six years. However, if a storm does a lot of damage, making it a memorable storm, the name is often removed permanently from the lists. Hurricane Katrina for instance. It is then replaced by a name with the same first letter.
Cool Hurricane Facts
Here are some fun hurricane facts. Most of these you can even use as hurricane facts for kids.
- Over ⅓ of pet owners do not have a disaster plan for their cat, dog or other pets. If you have a furry, scaly or fishy friend, make sure you have a plan in place for their safety and your peace of mind. (You can leave the pet spiders, too creepy)
- In the Atlantic, hurricane season starts June 1st. In the Pacific, it starts on May 15th. But both end on November 30th.
- When hurricanes hit land, the heavy rain, strong winds, and strength of the waves can damage buildings, homes, trees and cars. The heavy waves are called a storm surge.
- If you live in Florida...sorry. 40% of all the hurricanes that occur near the United States, hit Florida.
- Hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise direction around the Eye. The circle of storms around the Eye is called the Eye Wall, it is the most destructive and dangerous part of the hurricane.
- The difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane is the wind speed. Tropical storms usually bring wind speeds between 36 to 47 miles per hour. To be declared a hurricane, the wind speeds need to be at least 74 miles per hour.
- Names that have been “retired” due to their strength and impact include Katrina, Andrew, Mitch, and Sandy.
- When the National Hurricane Center began giving official names for storms in 1953, they were all female. Whoever came up with that practice must have had a lot of bad relationships with women.
- The costliest hurricane to make landfall was Hurricane Katrina. Damage was an estimated 108 billion dollars.
Scary Hurricane Facts
Hurricanes are not all fun and games. Every storm has the potential to make landfall and be devastating to the inhabitants. If you still do not think that hurricanes are a big deal, here are some extreme facts about hurricanes that will open your eyes.
- Hurricanes can cause tornadoes. Of course, a lot of science in involved when explaining how this happens, but here is the easy explanation. When a hurricane makes landfall, the combination of extremely high winds, new bursts in moisture, and changes in temperature can create the ideal conditions for the formation of tornadoes.
- Hurricanes can generate 100 foot ocean waves. Hurricane Ivan in 2004, was reported to have generated the tallest wave ever recorded at more than 90 feet. Imagine being out on a boat during that. You’d be in the middle of a scene from The Perfect Storm.
- A hurricane once destroyed an entire island in the New York City area. Hog Island was originally a sandbar which was created during the Civil War era, and it grew over time. On August 23, 1893, a category 2 hurricane hit the New York City area and generated waves well over 30 feet. By the morning after the storm, the island was almost completely submerged.
- A Category 5 hurricane can create winds up to 155 miles per hour. A this speed, the roofs of homes and buildings will literally fly off. Very few structures can withstand these winds. Imagine what it would be like attempting to stand out in the middle of that.
- Typhoon John (in the Pacific, hurricanes are called Typhoons) of 1994, travelled over 7,000 miles for a span of 31 days in the eastern Pacific.
- The deadliest hurricane on record was a category 4 storm that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. 8,000 people lost their lives during the destruction of the island by 15 foot waves and 130 mile per hour winds.
- In 1938, a hurricane called “The Long Island Express” hit New York City, destroying 26,000 cars and even causing the Empire State building to sway more than 4 inches.
Current Storm Predictions
Hurricane season is well underway and we have already seen two hurricanes this season. Hurricane Franklin and Gert. Gert only remained a hurricane for 3 days and was then downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Hurricane Franklin began as a tropical storm on August 6th and became a category 1 hurricane on August 9th. It made landfall in Veracruz, Mexico on the 10th, and made its way across Mexico before dissipating.
The current Atlantic hurricane predictions as of August 9th are 14-19 named tropical storms for this season. The latest predictions are calling for 5-9 hurricanes with 2-5 hurricanes to become category 3 or higher. Understanding and observing the the hurricane facts and predictions of the upcoming season is very important.
Hurricanes and Climate Change
A very popular theory right now is looking at the link between climate change and the frequency and strength of hurricanes. Many people are very skeptical about this theory, however when looking at the factors that increase the power of hurricanes, it becomes more plausible.
Hurricanes form over warm waters. Since 1970, the tropical ocean sea surface temperature worldwide has risen by about an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius. Warming in the North Atlantic ocean has been even more, 0.7 degrees Celsius. In addition, the sea levels are also rising. Since 1880, the sea has risen roughly 8 inches and it is predicted that it will continue to rise. This can cause stronger storm surges created by hurricanes making landfall.
In terms of strength, hurricanes have been growing, almost, continuously stronger since the 1970s. The prediction for future hurricanes is substantial. A doubling or more in the frequency of category 4 and 5 hurricanes by the end of the century. The western North Atlantic will most likely experience the largest increase. With the continuation of global warming, sea levels are likely to rise by 1-4 feet globally by the end of the century which will cause stronger storm surges.
Do your part to reduce the effects of climate change. Switch to renewable energy, recycle, and be mindful of your energy use. If the world comes together in an effort to reduce Global Warming, we might just stand a chance. If not, better start looking for a new planet to ruin.