The Science and Saga of SuperStorms
A comprehensive study of Atlantic Hurricanes- its formation, its mechanism and its devastating aftermath.
by Rukmini Roy
1 year, 5 months ago
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A hurricane is a storm system that’s characterized by a low-pressure centre, which is also called “the eye” and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms surrounding it. A funnel shaped storm structure; it produces very strong winds and strengthens when evaporated water from the ocean is released into it: by definition they contain winds in excess of 74 miles/hour which is 119km/hour. In addition they also causes heavy rainfall (The saturated warm air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor contained in the moist air) and spawns dangerous tornadoes which results in abnormal rise of the sea-level and flooding. Think of it as an angry Nature’s agent that’ll stop at nothing.  

But to understand some of world’s deadliest hurricanes that lashed at and ripped the USA, you’d have to travel 4000 miles east to Africa, the primordial land where it all began. You will be intrigued to know that some of the biggest hurricanes were a result of something as trivial as a little girl walking in the sand of the African desert!

The video below describes how a super storm is formed. This is how a storm is born, where they are born.

A fascinating look at how a little girl walking in the sand of the African ...
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Most hurricanes in the Atlantic are born as small atmospheric disturbances in the Jetstream that flows from east to west through the Sub Sahara Africa. They are called easterly waves. These waves in turn give birth to a system of turbulent eddies that eventually forms a cluster of thunderstorms. They travel west through the African continent and encounter the warm waters of the Atlantic- a place where the evil in it is born. In the Atlantic it picks up moist air, gets organized and starts to rotate near each other. The rotation increases and it passes through the water body, feeds on the solar heat trapped by the moist ocean air, and converts the heat energy into a mechanical energy that fuels the storm and its movements. Here’s a video directly from a NASA conversation that shows the latent heat and radiation that causes the tremendous energy within Hurricanes. If you are an energy mapping enthusiast, you migt find this extremely helpful and exciting.
This year's theme for Earth Science Week is "Exploring Energy." How do hurricanes get ...
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Galveston- 1900

Louisiana- 1927

Great New England- 1938

Hurricane Camille- 1969

Hurricane Andrew-1992

Katrina- 2005

Irene- 2011

Sandy-2012

 

What starts up as a gush of wind becomes more vigorous, develops an eye, gets pregnant with uncontrollable energy, picks up massive speed and becomes Hurricane Marilyn Monroe, perhaps! When the time is right it releases the energy in the form of wind and rain bringing forth a legacy of devastation, death and despair. Here are some of the deadliest hurricanes to have hit the USA coast and mainland


Watch this and other space videos at http://SpaceRip.com Why some tropical storms erupt ...
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The man who discovered the US is also the first European to have written about Hurricane. The name possibly comes from “Hunrakan”- A name that the Indians of Guatemala called the God of stormy weather with. Very similar names are found in the Caribbean too and it’s believed that Captain Fernando de Oviedo gave storms their modern name when he wrote - “"So when the devil wishes to terrify them, he promises them the 'Huracan,' which means 'tempest.'"

But, of course Hurricanes have been named since 1945 and for good reasons too. Firstly, it is to facilitate communications. Secondly, it’s named to reduce confusion about the nature of storm- there can be one or more in one single region.

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It rips gulfs causing widespread damage; it is a grim reminder of the real costs of disasters. It brings misfortune, unemployment, financial pitfalls and depressions. The demand rises over supply leading to obnoxious raises in commodity price. Local businesses suffer, with no homes and no money, people stop paying mortgages, leading to foreclosure. Taking Katrina as study, while the people of New Orleans felt maximum impact, United States’ oil industries suffered heavy losses. Almost 30% of the oil in the United States comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina overturned almost 13 oil platforms leading to a scandalous fuel shortage and price hikes which in turn caused a global recession of 3% in less than just 3 months. A White House fact sheet issued in 2007 says that the federal government has provided more than $127 billion in disaster funding, including tax relief.


According to the National Hurricane Center records of the costliest Hurricanes, here are 5 most turbulent swirls causing upto $105,840,000,000 damage.

5. Ivan

 ($19,832,000,000)
Struck in 2004 after forming as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, Hurricane Ivan was responsible for 92 deaths, 117 tornadoes over a three-day period, and 650,000 insurance claims being filed. Formed only 10.6 degrees north of the equator, it is also the southernmost hurricane on record.

4. Wilma

 ($20,587,000,000)
At its peak, the eye of Wilma was only two nautical miles wide, making it the smallest of any known hurricane and yet it caused the largest power outage in its history with over 98% of the area without power.

3. Ike 

($27,790,000,000)

Formed in the mid-Atlantic as a tropical depression, it entered the Caribbean with widespread damage potential; Ike killed 103 people, entered the Gulf Of Mexico after a while making landfall in Texas and carving a path through the United States

2. Andrew 

($45,561,000,000)

What started off small went onto become a category 5 huriicane with 26 direct casulaties and 65 total deaths. In florida alone, Andrew destroyed 25000 homes and caused severe damage to 100,000 others. But the massive impact of Andrew was seen in the Gulf Coast of Mexico where it overturned 13 oil platforms with severe damage to equipments.

1. Katrina 

($105,840,000,000)

The financial effects of natural disasters are naturally grand. But never have been a Hurricane so destructive as the Katrina. Almost crushing Louisiana to debris, Katrina killed 1836 people and caused damage to over thousands; seven years and the affected areas are still under repair.

Here’s a video on the economic impact of Katrina



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The United States should be okay with storms by now, with the frequency the eddies lash on it. With the most destructive ones causing upto $108billion damage, there has been fresh wounds upon this massive continent- Hurricane Irene, 2011 and the very recent Hurricane Sandy, 2012, causing economic slashes of $15.8billion and $50billion respectively. To top, losses in the Caribbean caused by Irene accounted for a total of nearly $19 billion!

IRENE: In August 2011, Hurricane Irene hit the Eastern Seaboard including New York City. Currently ranked as the fifth costliest hurricane in United States history and the first major hurricane of the 2011 hurricane season, Irene originated from a well-defined Atlantic tropical wave that began showing signs of organization east of the Lesser Antilles. But by the time it reached the Bahamas, Irene peaked as a 120 mph (195 km/h) Category 3 hurricane.

Throughout its path, it caused destruction. With 56 deaths, the damage was estimated throughout the United States near $15.6 billion, which made it the 6th costliest hurricane in United States history, only behind Hurricane Andrew of 1992, hurricanes Wilma and Katrina of 2005, Hurricane Ike of 2008, and Hurricane Sandy of 2012.

Here's Tracking Irene:


Hurricane Irene barrels toward Rhode Island
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A blow in the form of a storm to the U.S. economy that will reverberate for weeks, disrupting commerce in the nation's most-populous region, Sandy broke down on Jersey Shore on Monday, killing at least 11 people from West Virginia to North Carolina and Connecticut. Destroying billions of dollars' worth of property and likely to boost gasoline prices, according to IHS Global, Superstorm Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business. “Airlines and home construction firms will likely lose some business.”-says IHS Global Insight. Well an economy that’s already growing sluggishly, how good will this drain of money be is a question to ponder on.

Damage leaves sign. It’s like elastic you see. When you stretch and leave, although in apparent vision it comes back to its normal length, if measured minutely, it will be seen that some amount of elasticity has been lost. We wonder the effects of it on People who have lost homes and are now homeless. Sandy cut power to about 7 million homes, shut down 70 percent of East Coast oil refineries and inflicted worse-than-expected damage in the New York metro area. The same area that produces about 10% of U.S. economic output!

Here’s what Sandy did to the US:


Current damage estimates for Hurricane Sandy top $20 billion. Christopher Helman compares Sandy to the ...
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What cannot be stopped should be dealt with. And that’s what we, human beings are bred to do. But why not perfect what can be perfected? Scientists say that climate change is the possible agent that triggered Sandy, 2012. Whether a sea level rise through abnormally warm sea surface temperature or an unusual weather pattern that bears the fingerprint of the rapidly disappearing Arctic Sea Ice. In fact the water temperature off the East Coast were so warm this summer that New Englsnd fisheries observed significant shifts northward in cold water fishes. A hurricane cannot survive in late October had it not been for the warm, high seas- a result of global warming.

We know what to do. Question is, are we doing it yet or simply leading the world to a tumultuous nature versus man friction?

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Before the official practice of naming of Hurricanes began, significant hurricanes were named after evil politicians, mythological creatures, saints and places. Wonder why its named after women these days!

Did you know that if 1% of the energy in one hurricane could be captured, all the power, fuel, and heating requirements of the United States could be met for an entire year? The power that whirl the great warm core of a hurricane is fuelled by 500 trillion horsepower which is equivalent of an atomic explosion every 10 seconds!

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Sections
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1. What is a Hurricane?
2. Ed, Edd and the Turbulent Eddies- the birth story of a super storm
3. The deadliest Hurricanes
4. Why a Hurricane is called a Hurricane and names
5. Hurricanes cost $108 billion
6. Hurricane Irene
7. Hurricane Sandy
8. Author's Note
9. Fun Bits & Trivia
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