Hurricanes are absolutely terrifying, and I'm sure you'd like to have as little to do with them as possible. However, even with all the danger they pose (or maybe because of it), you have to admit these huge swirling storms have something fascinating about them. Check out these awesome facts about hurricanes and get to understand them better!
1. What Does "Hurricane" Mean?
Did you know "hurricane" comes from the now extinct Taino language spoken long ago in the Caribbean? The original term was "hurucane", and it meant something along the lines of "evil spirit of the winds".
2. We're Still Not Sure about What Triggers Hurricanes
Generally, scientists believe that hurricanes form when humid, warm air over the ocean starts ascending and creates a pocket of low air pressure. Then, more air enters that pocket, getting warm and moist enough to also start rising, all this turning into a cycle where air continually whirls in at the surface, while the ascending air reduces its temperature and forms towering clouds, thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. The thunderstorms combine and organize into a tropical depression, which then forms a tropical storm and, eventually, a hurricane.
Now, what's bothering experts is that this should happen every time the conditions are right – but it doesn't always. A hurricane must be triggered somehow, and scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how. They have identified some factors, like vorticity and wind shear, but they can't seem to agree and come to a clear conclusion.
3. Slow Hurricanes Are More Dangerous than Fast Ones
It is natural to believe that the stronger and faster the hurricane, the greater the damage. But this is not always the case. Slow hurricanes stick around for longer and will produce more rainfall, thus causing more damage by flooding than the fast-moving ones. And floods account for 90% of the deaths that occur during these swirling storms.
4. A Hurricane Contains Lots of Ice and Snow
A hurricane runs on heat, but the clouds it forms can tower many miles into the sky, sometimes even reaching the stratosphere. And it's darn cold up there – around -60 degrees F! Of course, all that moisture in the upper part of the hurricane turns into snow and ice. The cirrus clouds that are part of the storm's outflow are made of ice crystals and they look absolutely amazing!
5. The Planet Jupiter and Its Loyal Hurricane
Do you know our beloved gas giant has a hurricane that's been keeping it company for more than 300 years? Now that's loyalty! The storm is bigger than Earth itself and can be seen as a little red spot on Jupiter.
6. The Sahara Desert "Gives Birth" to Most Major Hurricanes
If the Sahara desert didn't exist, we would be "enjoying" considerable fewer hurricanes. Why, you ask? Because Sahara decided to form in just the right place – near the equator, with moister and cooler regions to the west and south. When the hot and dry air in Sahara mixes with the cool and damp air from the south and west, you get strong, unstable high altitude winds known as the African Easterly Jet. These, in turn, form tropical waves, which, under the right conditions, form hurricanes. Nearly 90% of all major hurricanes are born this way.
7. Hurricanes Live by Very Strict Rules
When you think about such storms, chaos automatically comes to mind. But even hurricanes have to follow some strict rules – the rules of physics. For example, because of the Coriolis effect, which deflects air clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern one, hurricanes cannot cross the equator. Also, if two hurricanes are close to each other, they can never combine – they will, instead, orbit each other.
These were only a few fascinating facts about these gigantic storms. Do you know any other interesting ones that you'd like to share?