Hurricanes are the most intense storms on Earth. Also called tropical cyclones, the strongest recorded wind speed during a hurricane was 190 miles per hour (mph), recorded during Allen in 1980. Hurricanes are known for being dramatic and dangerous – thrashing winds, torrential downpours, flooding and power outages.
Scientists today have access to powerful and extremely accurate hurricane forecasting tools. The National Hurricane Center uses satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, ships, buoys, radar and other tools to estimate the characteristics of a storm and predict it’s path, intensity, size and structure.
With the 2019 hurricane season upon us (it runs from June 1 – November 30), here are eight facts about hurricanes you might not know.
In most places of the world, tropical cyclones are simply called “cyclones”. In Asia they’re called “typhoons” and in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Oceans they are called “hurricanes”.
Some hurricanes appear to be organized and easy to recognize, and others are so chaotic it takes a trained eye to see them. They can be as small as a few dozen miles across or as large as half the size of the continental U.S.
The eyewall is the tight group of thunderstorms that rage around the center of the storm. The most severe winds usually come from the right of the storm’s forward motion, an area known as the right-front quadrant.
The core of a hurricane is very warm. The temperatures in the eye of a strong hurricane can exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit thousands of feet above the surface of the Earth, where it’s usually much colder.
Hurricane eyes don’t last forever. Storms frequently go through a process known as an eyewall replacement cycle, which is where a storm develops a new eyewall to replace the old one. The eyewall replacement cycle temporarily weakens the storm, but it can quickly grow even more intense once the cycle is complete.
More than half of all deaths that result from a hurricane that makes it to land are from the storm surge, or sea water that gets pushed inland by the storm’s winds. In a stronger storm like Katrina or Sandy, the water can be pushed so far inland that it completely submerges homes many miles from the coast.
Scientists started naming storms in the 1950s to make it easier to keep track of them in forecasts and news reports.
If a storm is especially deadly or destructive, the name will be taken off official lists so it’s never used again out of respect for the families of the storm’s victims and survivors. More than 80 names have been retired from the Atlantic Ocean’s list since 1954, including Florence and Michael due to the damage they caused in 2018.
Want to know more about how to prepare when a hurricane threatens? Click here for ten ways to prepare your home and family for a hurricane. Do you know elderly or disabled people who might benefit from information on how to protect vulnerable populations in the event of a hurricane? Click here to learn more.