What is a hurricane?

Hurricane: a tropical-rotating storm with winds that blow at 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour) or more | Photo: NASA

A hurricane is a tropical-rotating storm with winds that consistently blow at 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour) or more.

The hurricane season begins when the ocean's temperatures are high. Warm, moist air rises from ocean's surface to create a small rain storm.

As cool rain falls from the storm, heat rises into the air creating an upward current that pulls more moist air into the clouds. As a result, a bigger thunderstorm is formed.

Winds that blow across the ocean's surface get pulled into the updraft, dragging even more warm moist air into the storm's center.

As the storm grows, it becomes affected by the Earth's rotation and starts to spin - clockwise in the southern hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere.

Hurricanes: when they touch land, they're often highly destructive | Photo: Creative Commons

This rotation increases the storm's energy and causes an eye to form - a vertical axis of warm rising air. Then, winds blowing high above the Earth's surface set the storm on its path, many times towards land.

The hurricane is nature's most massive storm. Hurricanes cause a lot of damage, and most of the damage either comes from flooding, high winds, and huge waves.

Hurricanes are officially classified based on wind speed category:

Category 1: 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h)
Category 2: 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h)
Category 3: 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h)
Category 4: 130-156 mph (209-251 km/h
Category 5: 157+ mph (252+ km/h)

The "Hurricane Season" runs from June 1 to November 30. During this period, and every year, scientist report around 100 hurricanes.

Since 1953, each hurricane gets a unique name. The World Meteorological Organization decides names following a six-year list defined in alphabetical order.

However, when a hurricane causes a lot of destruction, its name is retired and replaced with another one beginning with the same letter.

Since the 1950s, only 20 of all the hurricane names that were retired reached Category 5. They were Janet (1955), Carla and Hattie (1961), Beulah (1967), Camille (1969), Anita (1977), David (1979), Allen (1980), Gilbert (1988), Hugo (1989), Andrew (1992), Mitch (1998), Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Katrina, Rita, and Wilma (2005), Dean and Felix (2007), and Matthew (2916).

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons: they are all tropical cyclones | Illustration: NASA

So, what are the differences between a hurricane, a cyclone, and a typhoon? The only difference between hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons is the region of the Earth where the storm occurs.

The hurricane is the name given to a storm that takes place in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific regions. The cyclone is the designation for the same phenomenon in South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, while the typhoon is the disturbance in the Northwest Pacific.

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all tropical cyclones.

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