Tornadoes and Hurricanes

By: Dakota Callender and Niles Emmert

What is a tsunami and where do they normally occur?

A tsunami is often misnamed a tidal wave, but in fact a tsunami is not just one wave but usually a series of seven or eight, that have nothing to do with the tide. In the open ocean, tsunamis are only about one meter high, but as they approach shallower waters and the shore, they grow to heights as high as eighty-five meters. Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific ocean as it is located on a plate mostly made of water. The Pacific ocean is also surrounded by the Ring of Fire, a highly active volcano and earthquake zone. The Ring of Fire circles the ocean from Alaska down to the west coasts of North and South America and up along the east coast of Asia, taking in parts of China, Japan and Russia. Tsunamis can only occur in coastal regions; islands are the main targets.

What atmospheric conditions favor the development of hurricanes?

The two essential ingredients in every hurricane are warm water and moist warm air. That’s why hurricanes begin in the tropics. Hurricanes start when warm, moist air from the ocean surface begins to rise rapidly, where it encounters cooler air that causes the warm water vapor to condense and to form storm clouds and drops of rain. The condensation also releases latent heat, which warms the cool air above, causing it to rise and make way for more warm humid air from the ocean below. Converging winds near the surface of the water collide, pushing more water vapor upward, increasing the circulation of warm air, and accelerating the speed of the wind. At the same time, strong winds blowing steadily at higher altitudes pull the rising warm air away from the storm’s center and send it swirling into the hurricane’s classic cyclone pattern.

What is the classification system used for hurricanes?

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale has gone through multiple changes over the course of time. The central pressure of a hurricane was utilized during the 1970s and 1980s before the use of Hurricane Hunter aircraft became commonplace in the 1990s. Meteorologists were able to estimate wind speeds in a hurricane or tropical storm based on central pressure. Storm surge estimates were also listed on the scale beginning in 1972. The traditional Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 5-step scale used as a hurricane classification system in the Atlantic and eastern North and Central Pacific basins. The scale includes calculations and estimates for wind speed, storm surge ranges, and flooding references. In general, possible damages rise by a factor of four for every category increase from 1 to 5. Maximum sustained surface wind speeds are the determining factor in the scale.

Where in the US do most hurricanes commonly occur and when?

Hurricanes (by whatever name) are by far most common in the Pacific Ocean, with the western Pacific being most active. In some years, the Philippines are struck by more than 20 tropical storms and typhoons. The term applied to various storms depends on their location. Only one hurricane force storm has ever occurred in the South Atlantic - Hurricane "Catarina" in 2004

How do hurricanes cause damage?

 Upon landfall hurricanes cause damage and destruction. Even when the hurricane has yet to make landfall, its effects can be dangerous. Hurricanes can cause mudslides, storm surges, tidal flooding, strong winds, rip tides, and many other devastating effects. Strong winds are the most common means of destruction associated with hurricanes. Storm Surges is the major cause of hurricanes damage is storm surge. Apart from the storm surges, heavy rainfall causes both flash and long term flooding. Rip tides are strong sea currents which push away from the shore as a strong storm is near.