Hurricanes are powerful and fiercely rotating windstorms that occur over warm ocean waters near the equator. These violent storms usually weaken before they reach land, but when they reach far inland, they can cause considerable damage to life and property.
Hurricanes are a type of tropical cyclone and are known by different names based on where they occur. Tropical cyclones that occur in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones, those that occur in the western Pacific Ocean are called typhoons, and those that form over the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean are termed hurricanes.
Learn a few interesting facts and pieces of information about hurricanes, how they are formed, and more in this post about hurricanes for kids.
How Does A Hurricane Form?
Hurricanes are known to be one of the most violent storms on Earth.
Tropical cyclones are fueled by moist, warm air. This is a significant reason why they form only over warm ocean waters that are near the equator.
The storm gathers speed and starts rotating faster. It is characterized by an eye that forms at its center. The eye is usually calm and clear with very low pressure, whereas the eye wall surrounding the eye is where the fiercest winds and heavy rain are found.
When the wind speeds in this storm reach 74 miles per hour (mph), it is officially called a tropical cyclone or hurricane.
The storms that form towards the north of the equator spin counter-clockwise, whereas storms that form south of the equator spin clockwise. This is due to the Earth’s rotation on its axis.
A few hurricanes make landfall, bringing along heavy winds, torrential rains, floods, tornados, water surges, and storm surges, which add to a hurricane’s destructive power. These violent winds range from 74 to 150 miles per hour and sometimes even more (1) (2) (3).
Due to advanced studies made by scientists and meteorologists, hurricanes can be tracked, and their paths can be predicted. Hence, the people living in the hurricane’s way can be warned to stay safe.
What Causes Hurricanes?
The exact cause of a hurricane is unknown. However, scientists believe that the warm ocean waters fuel it. For a hurricane to form, the surface water temperature must be at least 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit).
The other fuel is winds that don’t change speed or direction substantially as they rise higher because winds that change considerably as they gain height can rip storms apart (4).
50+ Facts About Hurricanes For kids
- The Australian weather forecaster C. Wragge was the first person to assign women’s names to hurricanes in the 19th century.
- Since 1953, Atlantic tropical hurricane names were assigned by the National Hurricane Center. The list is now maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- The practice of naming hurricanes after only women came to an end in 1978.
- Each year, the tropical storms are named in alphabetical order according to a list prepared by WMO. A particular name stays with the storm if it becomes a hurricane. These names can only be repeated after six years.
- There are only a limited number of hurricane names. But if a hurricane causes a lot of damage, the WMO does not use the hurricane name again and replaces it.
- Six lists are used in rotation by the WMO. The 2018 list will be used again in 2024.
- Names starting with the letters Q, X, Y, and Z are not used for naming hurricanes.
- The clouds formed during a hurricane can reach up to 50,000ft above the ocean surface.
- A hurricane consists of three main parts — the eye, the eye wall, and rain bands.
- The eye is the center of the hurricane. This circular center is calm and has no clouds.
- The eye wall is the area around the eye. It is where the most dangerous winds of the hurricane occur.
- The rain bands are the outer part of the hurricane that spins along with it. Clouds and thunderstorms spiral out from the eye wall.
- The gaps between the rain bands are often calm with no wind or rain.
- The average diameter of an Atlantic hurricane’s eye is about 20 miles, but a much smaller or larger diameter eye can occur, too.
- Some hurricanes have two eyes. This usually happens when two storms merge. The phenomenon is more common in the Pacific Ocean than the Atlantic Ocean.
- The spiraling winds of a hurricane can reach a speed of up to 320mph. These winds are so strong that they can rip apart trees and buildings.
- Hurricanes can produce storm surges after reaching land. These surges cause water levels to rise and cause huge, crashing waves. These storm surges can reach six meters high and extend to more than 150km.
- Slow-moving hurricanes tend to produce more rainfall and cause more damage and flooding.
- Secondary events, such as storm surges, flooding, landslides, and tornadoes, cause more damage to life and property than the hurricane itself.
- Regular landfall of hurricanes is vital to some regions’ water supply and can help mitigate droughts.
- In some regions, hurricanes also play a huge part in increasing forest photosynthesis and carbon uptake.
- Winds are more fierce on the right side of a moving hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere and on the left-hand side of the storm in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Hurricanes killed approximately 233,000 people from 1998–2017.
- The number of people living on cyclone-exposed coastlines has increased 192% in the last three decades.
- Jupiter has a hurricane that has been progressing for over 300 years. It can be seen as a large red spot on the planet and is larger than the Earth itself.
- The largest Hurricane recorded to date is Typhoon Tip, which occurred in the northwest Pacific in 1979. It had a diameter of around 1,380m (2,220km), which is nearly half the size of the US.
- The smallest tropical cyclone recorded to date is the Marco hurricane. Marco occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2008 and had winds that extended just 12m (19km) from the storm’s eye.
- Despite their small size, mini tropical cyclones are as powerful as larger storms.
- In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, classified as a category five hurricane, devastated Dominica, The U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, causing nearly 5,000 casualties.
- Hurricane Maria left 50% of Puerto Rico without power for more than seven weeks.
- In 1970, cyclone Bhola struck Bangladesh, killing approximately 300,000 people. It is considered to be the deadliest cyclone ever.
- In 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc and killed over 1,800 people. New Orleans was the worst hit, and the city was also 80% submerged.
- The cost of Hurricane Katrina is estimated at $161 billion, while that of Hurricane Harvey is estimated at $125 billion.
- In the northeastern Pacific, the Hurricane season is from May to November.
- In the northwestern Pacific, typhoons are common from late June to December.
- In the northern Indian ocean, cyclones occur between April to December.
- The hurricane season is usually between June and November in the Atlantic basin.
- The Northwest Pacific witnesses the largest number of hurricanes each year, averaging 16.5.
- The North Indian Ocean witnesses the least number of hurricanes per year, averaging 1.5.
- The Northern Hemisphere experiences more hurricanes than the Southern Hemisphere.
- One of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history was the Great Galveston hurricane, also known as the great storm of 1900. It devastated Galveston, Texas, and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. It is also the fifth deadliest Atlantic hurricane recorded to date.
- Hurricane hunters or typhoon hunters are aircrews that fly into the tropical storms to gather weather data.
- In the U.S., the hurricane hunting missions are undertaken by a few organizations, such as the United States Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hurricane Hunters, and also by a few of the navy and air force units.
- The raging winds of a single hurricane can generate around half the energy as the whole world’s electrical generating capacity.
- Hurricane/Typhoon John holds the record for the longest-lasting tropical cyclone. It lasted for 31 days, from August 11 to September 11, 1994.
- Hurricane/Typhoon John also holds the record for the longest distance covered. It traveled a distance of 13,280km.
- The slower the movement of the hurricane, the longer the conditions persist.
- A hurricane warning, meaning a hurricane is expected, is issued 36 hours in advance, while a hurricane watch, meaning a hurricane is possible, is issued before 48 hours.
- The highest storm surge following a hurricane measured 12.8m (42 feet). It occurred in 1899 in Australia.
- In the late 1980s, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) misjudged a hurricane’s landfall location by approximately 350 miles when they made the prediction three days in advance.
- Fewer than two hurricanes make landfall in the US in a typical year.
- Approximately 40% of hurricanes in the US make landfall in Florida.
Categories Of Hurricanes
Category 1 (Very dangerous): The wind speeds are very dangerous and ranges between 74 to 95mph, causing minimal damages and power outages lasting for a few days.
Category 2 (Extremely dangerous): The wind speeds are extremely dangerous and range between 96 to 110 mph, causing extensive damages and near-total power loss lasting for a few weeks.
Category 3 (Major hurricane): The wind speeds are devastating and range between 111 to 129mph. Extreme damages occur, trees get uprooted, and water and electricity become unavailable for a few weeks.
Category 4 (Catastrophic hurricane): The wind speeds range from 130 to 156mph. Extensive damages occur. Loss of buildings, poles, trees mostly happen.
Category 5 (Catastrophic hurricane): The wind speed exceeds 157mph or higher and causes catastrophic damages. A higher percentage of destruction is seen.
A hurricane is an extreme weather phenomenon. Although there is no way to avoid it, we can always stay alert and prepare ourselves for these extreme weather conditions. Following your respective governments’ hurricane safety tips during these extreme conditions is a must.
2. How do hurricanes form?; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
3. Hurricane; National Geographic Society
4. What Are Hurricanes?; NASA
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6. Tropical Cyclone Naming; World Meteorological Organization
7. Hurricane Science: How Storms Like Arthur Form and Grow; National Geographic Society
8. Hurricanes: Structure; North Carolina State University
9. Guide on the Tropical Cyclone Early Warning System; Meteorological Department Curaçao
10. Hurricanes Are Moving Slower—And That’s a Huge Problem; National Geographic Society
11. Hurricanes Key to Carbon Uptake by Forests; Duke University
12. Tropical Cyclones (Hurricanes) Fall 2014; Tulane University
13. Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones – Introduction; Smithsonian
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15. Astronomy Picture of the Day; NASA
16. Tiny Typhoon; The Earth Observatory (NASA)
17. Longest lasting tropical cyclone; Guinness World Records
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19. What is the difference between a hurricane watch and a warning?; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
20. Hurricane Costs; NOAA Office for Coastal Management
21. Hurricanes and Climate Change: Everything You Need to Know; Natural Resources Defense Council
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