9 Facts You Absolutely Need To Know About Hurricanes

9 Facts You Absolutely Need To Know About Hurricanes


A hurricane (also known as a typhoon or cyclone) is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, winds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour or greater, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain.


The difference between hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones is simply geography. The same weather system — known as a tropical cyclone — goes by different names depending on where the storm originates. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used. The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.


Hurricanes form through the combination of warm ocean water and wind. The wind causes the warm ocean water to evaporate and rise. Once the water vapor rises high enough into the atmosphere, it cools, creating droplets of water which then form cumulonimbus clouds. As this cycle repeats, the storm clouds grow stronger and stronger.


Since hurricanes need warm ocean water to form, they originate over tropical waters, including the western Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean along the equator. Once a hurricane has formed, they can travel out from the tropics to temperate climates.


Hurricane season varies depending on where the storm originates:

Atlantic Ocean: June 1 to November 30, peaking in early September
Eastern Pacific Ocean: May 15 to November 30, peaking in late August or early September
Western Pacific Ocean: July 1 to November 30, peaking in late August or early September
South Pacific Ocean: October 15 to May 15, peaking in late February or early March
Indian Ocean: April 1 to December 31 in the north, October 15 to May 31 in the south

Hurricanes can generate huge amounts of rain in their path, which often leads to flooding. Their high, sustained winds cause severe damage to buildings and infrastructure. Those winds combined with high tides when the hurricane is reaching land can cause a storm surge that floods coastal areas. The combination of winds, rain, and flooding is often devastating for communities in the path of a powerful hurricane.


The largest and most intense tropical cyclone on record was Typhoon Tip (known locally in the Philippines as Typhoon Warling), which had recorded winds of 190mph and a wind diameter of 1,370 miles in 1979. The 1970 Bhola Cyclone, which struck Bangladesh, is the most deadly tropical cyclone on record. Up to 500,000 people lost their lives, in large part due to a storm surge that flooded low-lying islands in the Ganges Delta. While GlobalGiving wasn’t around in the 1970’s, we have worked with projects in the Philippines since 2003 and our community of givers has generously supported relief efforts for the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in 2011. You can support people still in need of help in the Philippines today.


People living on the coast in tropical regions tend to bear the brunt of hurricane damage, and those that are rural and low-income tend to fare worse than others due to poorer infrastructure, greater difficulty escaping the path of the storm, and lack of access to medical care in the storm’s aftermath.


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States has had 268 tropical cyclones reach land, the most on record. China has seen the second most with 230, and the Philippines have experienced the third most tropical cyclones at 176.


Want to help survivors of hurricanes?

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