Facing the Fury: How hurricanes are formed

By: Karen Gonzalez

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It only takes one hurricane to completely change our community, our home, or even our life.

But how exactly do they form and how do they reach us?

One of the main ingredients for hurricane development is in the Atlantic Ocean where we find warm ocean water that’s at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

To the east of it is the western coast of Africa where these tropical systems are born as tropical waves.

These tropical waves are generated by the African Easterly jet. This small jet is due to the temperature difference between the hot Saharan desert and the cool waters of the ocean.

In addition, the trade winds converge near the equator in an area called the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ.  These converging winds can help form a tropical wave, an unorganized group of storms, often over the coast of Guinea.

From here, this tropical wave begins to feed off the warm ocean waters, and if the ingredients are in place, it will continue to become more organized, eventually becoming a tropical depression or tropical storm.

Before we know it, the system continues to move west due to the push of the trade winds. The wind speeds pick up, and eventually rotation begins.

The system is now more organized, and once the wind speeds reach 74 miles per hour, this system becomes a category one hurricane.

With the push of the trade winds and the warm ocean waters it still has the potential of intensifying, yet again putting the Caribbean, Central America, and North America on notice.


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