Hurricane alley


Hurricane Alley is an area of warm water in the Atlantic Ocean stretching from the west coast of northern Africa to the east coast of Central America and Gulf Coast of the Southern United States. Many hurricanes form within this area. The sea surface temperature of the Atlantic in Hurricane Alley has been steadily growing warmer over the past decades, which most climate scientists believe accounts for the increase in hurricane activity.[1][2]

How hurricanes form

Hurricanes form over tropical waters in areas of high humidity, light winds, and warm sea surface temperatures. These areas which were described above are usually between the latitudes of 8° and 20° north.[3] The perfect temperature for a hurricane is approximately 26 °C. This temperature has been set as a standard. If the water is colder the hurricane will most likely weaken, but if the waters are warmer rapid growth can occur.[4]

The area between 10° and 20°N create the most hurricanes in a given season because of the warmer temperatures. Hurricanes do not form outside this range because the Coriolis Effect is not strong enough to create the tight circulation needed and above this range the temperatures are too cool.[5] The waters are only at the necessary temperatures from July until Mid-October. In the Atlantic this is the height of the season. Water takes longer to heat than land, which is why it takes so long for hurricane alley to be at the right temperature for hurricane development and lasts so late.

Since hurricanes rely on sea surface temperature, sometimes an active season in the beginning becomes quiet later. This is because the hurricanes are so strong that they churn the waters and bring colder waters up from the deep. This creates an area of the sea the size of the hurricane, which has cooler waters, which can be 5-10°C lower than before the hurricane. When a new hurricane moves over the cooler waters they have no fuel to continue to thrive, so they weaken or even die out.[6]

The relationship of 'hurricane alley' to climate change is a difficult topic. Recent scientific evidence suggests that hurricane intensity may be increasing due to warmer tropical sea surface temperature, but the connection to Atlantic hurricane frequency is less conclusive.[7] There is a debate as to whether climate change is causing more severe storms, but more research is needed into hurricane dynamics.

References

Further reading

  • http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/
  • http://csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes/#
  • http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/DelicateBalance/balance.php
  • http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/GlobalMaps/view.php?d1=MYD28M

See also

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