Let’s start off with these names. How did Irma, Harvey, Jose and Katia (hey, that’s me!) get their names? Since 1950, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (now the World Meteorological Organization) started this practice of giving hurricanes names. Before this, they were just assigned latitude-longitude numbers, but this proved to be too complex. In 1950, the entire season was given a name according to a phonetic alphabet. But by 1953, individual storms were given names, female names in particular. By 1979, both female and male names were assigned to the storms.
You may be wondering what is the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane? It comes down to wind speed. A tropical wind storm has wind speeds of 39 mph. It develops into a hurricane when wind speeds reach 74 mph.
The hurricane category also comes down to wind speed. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale defines five categories of hurricanes. A category 1 hurricane is the weakest, with wind speeds at 74 mph. A category five hurricane is the strongest, with winds exceeding 155 mph.
Ever wondered how much a hurricane weighs? Well, an average white cloud weighs around 216,000 pounds! Warm air currents keep the cloud elevated. A storm cloud, cumulonimbus, weighs about 105.8 million pounds. A typical North American Hurricane contains about 108 billion lbs. of water!
Hurricanes move differently depending on where they’re located. In the Southern hemisphere, hurricanes rotate clockwise. In the Northern hemisphere, they rotate counter-clockwise. This has to do with the earth’s rotation. This phenomenon is called the Coriolis Force.
Hurricanes move differently depending on where they’re located, they’re also named differently depending on where they’re located. In the Northwest Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons. In the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, they’re called cyclones.
While the official naming system for hurricanes was developed in the 1950s, it wasn’t the first time someone gave a hurricane a person’s name. In the 1900s, Australian meteorologist Clement Wragge initially named tropical cyclones after characters from Greek and Roman mythology. He later named the cyclones after politicians he didn’t like.
When hurricanes hit land, they create what is called a “storm surge.” This is when the barreling wind speeds push the sea towards the land and cause massive rises in water levels. Storm surges can reach up to six meters high, and some can extend 90 miles.
The deadliest hurricane on record happened in 1900 in Galveston, Texas. The category four storm killed an estimated 8,000 people, who perished under 15-foot waves caused by the storm surge. The Galveston hurricane is the worst weather-related disaster in U.S. history.
If you think the hurricanes on Earth are bad, you should be happy you don’t live on Jupiter (but you can’t even if you wanted though, cause of poisonous gas, etc.). The Great Red Spot, one of the most defining aspects of the planet, is a massive hurricane that has existed on the planet for around 300 years! The spot is two times the size of the Earth.