Hurricanes

Hurricane Facts For Kids

The word “hurricane” comes from ‘Huracan’, the god of big winds and evil spirits once worshiped by the Maya people of Central America. Here we take a look at some cool hurricane facts.

First – what is a hurricane? A hurricane is an intense tropical storm with powerful winds and heavy rain and can also create tornadoes, high waves and lots of flooding.

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Where do hurricanes form?

They usually form in tropical parts of the world like the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season being from August to late October. So, no visiting at those times then. Make sure your parents plan their holiday properly. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins on May 15 and ends November 30.  Evaporation, when liquid changes to gas, from the seawater increases their power. The heat dissolves as the hurricane moves toward the poles, sometimes causing extreme damage for people living along the coastlines where hurricanes take place.

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Some Info about Hurricanes

Hurricanes range from about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) wide. They can last from days to weeks and almost always form over the ocean.  They can have speeds over 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour), with things flying all over and be can also have heavy rains with them, which can cause land/mud slides.

What needs to happen for a hurricane to form?

  1.  The ocean waters must be warm enough at the surface – about 80° Fahrenheit (26⁰ Celsius) or warmer to put enough heat and moisture into the atmosphere.
  2. Atmospheric moisture from sea water evaporation must cool off very quickly and combine the heat and energy to form the powerful engine needed to propel the hurricane.
  3. A wind must be blowing in the same direction and at the same speed to force air upward from the ocean surface. Bands of thunderstorms form, allowing the air to warm even more and rise higher into the atmosphere. Winds flow outward above the storm and the air below rises. If the winds at the higher levels are not that strong, the structure can remain intact and grow stronger and this is the beginning of a hurricane. When hurricanes come onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and large waves can damage buildings, trees and cars.

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The eye of the hurricane

The eye of a hurricane is the calmest spot. It is generally 20 (32 kilometers) to 30 miles (48 kilometers) wide. Amazingly the hurricane can be about 400 miles (644 kilometers) wide. The most violent activity takes place in the area immediately around the eye, called the “eyewall”. At the top of the eyewall, which is up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), most of the air is driven outward, which increases the upward motion of the air. Some of the air, however, moves inward and sinks into the eye. This actually creates a cloud-free area.

Hurricane winds in the northern hemisphere circulate in a counter-clockwise motion around the hurricane’s centre or “eye,” while hurricane winds in the southern hemisphere circulate clockwise. Wow, that’s amazing!

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Storm Surges

Storm surges are usually the most devastating part of a hurricane. As a hurricane’s winds spiral around and around the storm, they push water into a mound at the storm’s centre. This mound of water becomes dangerous when the storm reaches land because it causes flooding along the coast. The water piles up, unable to escape anywhere but on to land as the storm carries it forwards. A hurricane will cause more storm surge in areas where the ocean floor slopes gradually and this will cause major flooding.  The amount of surge that a hurricane can cause is measured on machines called Slosh Models. What a weird name.

Hurricane Names

From 1953 the United States Weather Bureau started naming hurricanes using women’s names for North Atlantic hurricanes.  The rest of the world eventually caught on, and now the World Meteorological Organization, is responsible for naming hurricanes. It uses different types of names dependent on the part of the world the storm is in. Around the US only women’s names were used. Then in 1979 they decided men’s names should be used as well. If a hurricane creates huge damage, its name is retired and replaced with another. Here are a few of the names from the 2015 list; Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erica, Fred. There are many more.

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Hurricane Hunters

There are brave “hurricane hunters” who work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Each mission lasts about ten hours, with the crews passing four to six times through the storm. Can you imagine? That just sounds crazy! The planes carry radar, sophisticated computers and weather instruments that measure temperature, air pressure, wind speed, and wind direction inside the hurricane. The crews also release instruments that measure temperature, air pressure, and wind at different levels as the devices drop through the hurricane toward the ocean. By mission’s end, NOAA can warn everyone in the hurricane’s path. At least it’s a massive help to people.

Hurricanes can be tracked by weather satellites and weather radar closer to land.

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What was one of the worst hurricanes in history?

One of the worst hurricanes in history was the Galveston hurricane in the 1900s, which devastated the city and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people – mostly from drowning.  That’s frightening. The 1970 Bhola Cyclone that struck Bangladesh killed over 300,000 people.  Cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are just different names for the same thing.