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Formation of hurricanes

Date: 27 July 2020 Tags: Geography & Environment

Issue

Texas, which is one of the largest hotspots for Covid-19 in the US, is now facing another threat, due to Hurricane Hanna, which has made its landfall.

 

Background

The hurricane is expected to produce heavy rains across portions of southern Texas and north-eastern Mexico, which will result in “life-threatening” flash flooding.

 

Details

  • The tropical cyclones that form over the Atlantic Ocean or the eastern Pacific Ocean are called hurricanes and the ones that form in the Northwest Pacific are called typhoons.

  • There are five categories of tropical cyclones, depending on the wind speeds. Hanna is category one. When winds in the rotating systems reach 39 mph, the storm is called a tropical storm and when they reach 74 mph, the tropical storm can be classified as a tropical cyclone or a hurricane and is also given a name.

  • Once tropical cyclones make landfall, they become weaker since they are no longer fed by the heat of the ocean, but before dying out completely, they move far inland dumping inches of rainwater and causing wind damage.

  • Tropical cyclones or hurricanes use warm, moist air as fuel and therefore form over warm ocean waters near the equator. When the warm, moist air rises upward from the surface of the ocean, it creates an area of low air pressure below.

  • When this happens, the air from the surrounding areas, which has higher pressure, enters this space, eventually rising when it becomes warm and moist too.

  • As the warm and moist air continues to rise, the surrounding air will keep entering the area of low air pressure.

  • When the warm air rises and cools off, the water in the air forms clouds, and this system of clouds and winds continues to grow and spin, fuelled by the ocean’s heat and the water that evaporates from its surface.

  • As such storm systems rotate faster and faster, an eye forms in the centre. Storms that form towards the north of the equator rotate counter-clockwise and those that form south of the equator spin clockwise because of the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

  • Adopting names for tropical storms makes it easier for people to remember, as opposed to numbers and technical terms. Apart from the general public, it also helps the scientific community, the media, disaster managers, etc.

  • With a name, it is easy to identify individual cyclones, create awareness of its development, rapidly disseminate warnings to increased community preparedness and remove confusion where there are multiple cyclonic systems over a region.

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