The Stages in the Development of Hurricanes

Hurricane season is here! From June to November, weather watchers wait to see what tropical storms will come.  Remember the devastation of Hurricane Ike or the troubles brought by 2005 storm, Katrina, people are curious what trials the next season may bring

 What is a Hurricane?

The term hurricane, also synonymous with typhoon, refers to a tropical cyclone which has sustainable winds of 74 miles per hour.  These intense tropical storms are generally characterized by circulating winds and their origins in tropical and sub-tropic areas.

For hurricanes to form several factors have to be in place.  Weather and water temperatures must be above 80 degrees. Humidity, low pressure systems, and even wind shears are also crucial factors.

Stages of Development

Hurricanes have a life cycle and begin as simple thunderstorms over a tropical ocean.  If the storm lasts for a long period and grows in intensity, it can progress to the level of a hurricane. The three stages of hurricane development are tropical depression, tropical storm and finally hurricane.

Tropical Depression Stage

As tropical thunderstorms form over warm bodies of water, they may begin to collect. This collection of thunderstorms is the early stage of hurricane development called a tropical depression.  In tropical depressions, wind speed can reach between 23 to 39 miles per hour.  The depressions have low pressure areas which may begin to have movement around a center.  A depression can last for weeks or dissipate.  Depressions are not given names, but are monitor because they can impact weather on land as well as the seas.

Tropical Storm Stage

Once a depression has begun to take form around a spiraling center, the tropical depression is reclassified as a tropical storm.  Tropical storms general have sustainable winds of 39 miles per hour to 73 miles per hour.  Tropical storms can form over hours or take several days to develop.  These storms can release heavy rainfalls and contribute to flooding.  This stage can cause devastation and begins to resemble a hurricane in form. At this stage, the storm is assigned a name by the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Stage

A hurricane is an incredibly intense tropical storm with sustainable winds exceeding 74 miles per hour.  General once a storm is at this stage of development, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to determine the category or intensity of the storm.  The scale uses a 5 tiered rating which until recently considers wind speeds as well as flooding and storm surges.

Throughout history, hurricanes have resulted in loss of life and billions in property damage.   Hurricane preparedness and awareness are keys to successfully surviving these tropical storms. With summer climates already here, many hope that the seas will be calm and weather just warm.