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Hurricanes


zlessard

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Sticking with the theme of natural disasters following my post on tsunamis, I decided to look deeper into the physics of one of the most frightening disasters: a hurricane.

Starting off simply, a severe hurricane can have a power of 1x10^15 watts. To put that in perspective, that is about 3000 times the total electrical power generated in the entire world.

Looking more at what happens physically, a hurricane starts when air rushes in to fill a low pressure system somewhere out over the ocean. As the air rushes in, the moisture in it condenses, which causes a release of energy which in turn warms the air. This warm air then rises and pulls more air in around it. All of this air rushing towards the center of the storm is sort of like a centripetal force, but this apparent force only occurs because of the motion of the earth. All of this moving air eventually picks up a counterclockwise rotation due to this apparent centripetal force. So all of this air rushing towards the center and in a counterclockwise manner is what gives the hurricane it's defining characteristic: the high wind. Hurricanes thrive over bodies of water, but die off once they reach land due to the lack of moisture. These massive storms are still able to destroy a lot on land before dying off.

Hopefully, understanding these natural disasters will help me to remain as safe from them as possible.  

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