I am easily distracted at times so with all of this talk about Hurricanes and Hurricanes lining up like trains I tend to focus more on that since it is the big weather story. This big storms are very important to all of us every where. The formation of these storms is a massive release of energy that is built up in the tropics. That energy is then distributed to the northern latitudes.
First, I will give you the positives of these storms. As many of you know we are settling into some very dry times around here. This goes back through last year. When a tropical system makes landfall and moves inland there are usually two primary threats... tornadoes & flooding. These systems have so much moisture combined with slow movement... poof... you can get some high rainfall totals. Sometimes receiving 2-4 inches of rain over a few days isn't a bad thing. As a matter of fact that would benefit us tremendously. We could see the drought like conditions disappear for a while if we received enough rainfall from these systems. So there is some benefit to one of these storms. If this had been a very wet and cool summer I wouldn't hope that we'd see the remnants of one of these storms. We could be more in the severe flooding boat... as opposed to the extremely dry one.
Of course there are some negatives that go along with the positives. Loss of human life is always atop the list. These systems can also drive up prices of literally everything!!!
Tropical storm and hurricane prediction probably never will be an exact science, but the reasons for storm formation are well understood by the scientific community. There are several elements that—when combined at the "right" amount of time and under the "right" conditions—will create a hurricane, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
The beginning of life for any hurricane is a pre-existing tropical disturbance—an area of low atmospheric pressure in the air over the tropical Atlantic Ocean near Carribean islands, such as Bermuda and the Bahamas.
The warmth and moisture of the ocean during late summer and early fall months (when ocean waters reach their highest temperatures) energizes the pre-storm conditions and leads to thunderstorms.
If thunderstorms persist and winds pick up to 40 miles per hour, the tropical disturbance officially becomes a tropical storm. At this point, the National Hurricane Center names the storm, working from a pre-determined list of names that is recycled every six years. Meteorologists all over the country know to keep a close eye on the now-named storm, although many tropical storms weaken and die before becoming hurricanes.
Tropical storms that continue to intensify will keep pulling in warm and humid air from the lower atmosphere while spitting out cooler, drier air into the upper atmosphere. According to Chris Landsea of NOAA's hurricane research division, at this point in its development, the storm system operates like a huge "heat engine."
"The 'heat engine' gets its energy from warm, humid air over the tropical ocean and releases this heat through the condensation of water vapor," said Landsea. This energy release is what drives the powerful winds of a hurricane.
The force of the release is tremendous—the amount of heat energy released by an average hurricane is equivalent to the amount of electric energy produced by the U.S. in an entire year. A small portion of the energy released actually warms what has become the inner core of the storm. As the temperature of the air in the inner core rises, its pressure drops, increasing the speed and intensity of the winds swirling around it. These stronger winds bring more warm, moist air to the clouds surrounding the inner core of the storm further fueling its energy. When the swirling winds reach a speed of 74 miles per hour or more, the tropical storm becomes a hurricane.
This first image shows you a satellite image with the basic structure of the hurricane.
Once a storm officially becomes a hurricane, it receives an intensity rating based on its wind speed and potential to cause damage. The rating system that is used by the National Weather Service is called the Saffir-Simpson scale. As a hurricane develops, its intensity rating often changes. In 1985, for example, Hurricane Opal grew from a Category One into a Category Four hurricane in just 18 hours.
(Graphic Courtesy of the Palm Beach Post)
So there you have some useful information on hurricanes.
The latest on Hanna... which still could come our way. We just have to give it a little time to move through the Atlantic. Just keep your fingers crossed that there won't be any extreme damage where ever this storm may go... ad that it will arrive here with some much needed rainfall.
As you may have read here or saw on the news... Hanna is not alone! Hurricane Ike is following closely behind and looks like it could go towards Florida, Cuba, or spilt the difference and head into the Gulf Of Mexico! Early indication has this one reaching Category 3 strength within the next 5 days! I have updates on this as well!
Now, for an actual forecast to round out the work week. Highs stick around 90 degrees and lows will stay tough in the 60s. The next chance of rain will not arrive until Saturday. At this point I am actually seeing a better chance for a cold front to slip into the region and bring us a small chance of showers. Until then... keep checking out the ole blog!