Tropical Cyclones
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Tropical Cyclones

Whether you call them hurricanes, cyclones, or typhoons, tropical cyclones are devastating. They form in warm oceans, and follow wind patterns to reach land. They only form under particular conditions, and need a steady outflow to intensify and sustain intensity. Hurricanes strike almost every year, and its better to be prepared for a hurricane if you end up in its path, rather than be clueless when one strikes.

Now that spring is on the way, and the summer will be here before we know it, lets look at a weather phenomenon that hits every year, tropical cyclones. These swirling cloud masses that form over the ocean are called many different names. In the United states, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic ocean, they are called hurricanes. They are called cyclones in Australia, the southwestern pacific, and the southeastern Indian Ocean. In the northwestern Pacific Ocean, they are called typhoons. These powerful storms have a certain time of the year in which conditions are favorable for their development. In the Atlantic ocean, Hurricane Season is from June 1st to November 30th. In the Eastern Pacific ocean, the hurricane season is from May 15th to November 30th. The Western Pacific has an all year season, but is mostly active from July to November, and then is calm during February through early March. With so many places being affected, what are the conditions that these places share in order for tropical cyclones to form?

For cyclones to form, there must be sufficiently warm waters, at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There must also be plenty of moisture, and converging equatorial winds. The storm is caused by the warm moist ocean air rapidly rising and then condensing, becoming a cloud. When the warm rain comes down, it warms the cooler air aloft, and more warm air from the ocean rises to replace the cool air. The pattern the heat makes in the storm makes a similar pattern to water going down a drain. The winds are constantly coming from all directions to the center to fill the area of low pressure due to the rapid removal of hot air from the surface. The storm is kept organized by winds leaving the storm at higher levels of the atmosphere. These winds bring the warm air outside of the storm, so it can be replaced by more warm air at the surface. If these winds are not uniform, or do not release the heat at the same speed, then the storm will fall apart.

When all these conditions come together, the thunderstorms, produced by the conditions, begin to swirl. The storm is accompanied by wind and rain. When the wind speed reaches 38 mph, the cyclone is officially a tropical depression, although in the Atlantic they are classified at 35 mph winds. If the winds reach above 38 mph, the storm is named because it becomes a tropical storm. When the winds reach 74 mph, it is officially a hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon. 

A hurricane is composed of three main parts. The eye, is the area of low pressure. This is normally marked by a calm clear skied area. It is located relatively in the middle of the storm, which means the entire storm revolves around this area. The second part of the storm is the eye wall. This wall surrounds the eye, and contains the strongest winds and heaviest rains. The third part are the rain bands. These can contain heavy rain, and powerful winds, although not as intense as the eye wall. These are circling the outside of the storm.

Tropical cyclones account for about 17 direct, and 174 indirect deaths in the United states alone. People should always monitor these massive storms and if you live in a costal state, have an evacuation plan.

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