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50 Amazing Hurricane Facts

Hectic, even for hurricane season

hurricanes, tropical storms

The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season broke record after record (Image credit: NASA/GSFC.)

2005 also saw the most hurricanes ever to form in a single Atlantic season, with 15.

Calm, for a change

hurricanes, tropical storms

1983 Atlantic hurricane season summary. (Image credit: NOAA.)

The fewest named storms ever to form in the Atlantic basin was four in the 1983 season.

Stability kills

hurricanes, tropical storms

What makes a hurricane? First, warm water (Image credit: NASA/GSFC.)

Warm water is the fuel that drives a hurricane. Hurricanes require ocean water temperatures of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) to form. Above this temperature the atmosphere is unstable, and that allows deep convection, the overturning of air that allows a tropical storm to become a hurricane, to occur. Below that temperature, the atmosphere is too stable and not enough energy is introduced into the storm.

Six year cycle

hurricanes, tropical storms

Hurricane Andrew on August 23 at approximately 1231 UTC. (Image credit: NOAA.)

Hurricane names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization headquartered in Geneva. The WMO is in charge of updating the six weather regions of the world (the United States is in region four, which consists of North America, Central America and the Caribbean). Names are reused every six years, but names of the most significant storms like Andrew and Katrina are retired.

Honoring saints


Debris left in front of Gus' Bath in Palm Beach, Fla., after 1928 hurricane. (Image credit: Herrington family/Florida Photographic Collection)

Originally, hurricanes were given the names of saints who were honored on the day the storm occurred, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For example, the hurricane that hit Okeechobee, Florida, in 1928, was alternately called the Okeechobee hurricane and the San Felipe Segundo hurricane because it hit on the feast day of Saint Philip.

Coriolis Effect

hurricanes, tropical storms

Tropical Cyclone Favio came ashore on the coast of Mozambique in the morning of February 22, 2007. (Image credit: NASA.)

Tropical cyclones' winds rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere because of the Earth's Coriolis force. Convection is most intense near the storm center, and so air rises. Air is drawn into the center of the storm along the surface, and that creates wind. Because Earth is rotating under the storm, the winds are curved.

Storm climax

hurricanes, tropical storms

(Image credit: NOAA.)

In the Atlantic Ocean basin, hurricane activity historically peaks around Sept. 10.

Femme fatale

hurricanes, tropical storms

15 UTC map of October 1954 showing Hurricane Hazel and the meteorological set-up. (Image credit: NOAA.)

When the National Hurricane Center began giving official name to storms, in 1953, they were originally all female.

Equal opportunity

hurricanes, tropical storms

Hurricane David at intensity on August 30. Maximum sustained winds were about 175 mph. (Image credit: NOAA.)

Males names were added to the hurricane name lists in 1979. Current lists alternate between male and female names.

Supply and demand

hurricanes, tropical storms

Hurricane David at intensity on August 30. Maximum sustained winds were about 175 mph. (Image credit: NOAA.)

Current Atlantic storm name lists exclude the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are not enough names starting with these letters to include them.

Live Science Staff
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