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Can Hurricanes Form Over Land?



Hurricanes cannot form over land.

Hurricanes form only over water, never on land.  Although these powerful, awesome tropical storms are called by many names, including typhoons and cyclones, only storms that develop in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific Oceans near the equator may be called hurricanes.

How Are Hurricanes Fueled?

Hurricanes require warm, humid air, found only over the ocean in tropical areas, in order to form and to allow them to become larger and more powerful.  It is rare for hurricanes to form over water cooler than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  [1]When the warm ocean waters heat the air above them, that air rises, creating a pocket of low pressure over the water.  Cooler air from the surrounding area rushes into this area in the form of wind, and is in turn heated and made to rise.  As the air rises away from the warm water and cools, it condenses into clouds.  As this engine of wind and humidity continues to turn, the whole system of clouds begins to spin and grow.  The wind increases in speed and is able to pick up more humidity from the warm ocean water, feeding the storm.  [2]

What Happens When Hurricanes Reach Land?

While hurricanes only form over water, they can reach land after forming– you may see this happen in coastal areas every year.  However, hurricanes tend to lose power over land.  Since they are fueled by warm ocean water, once they are no longer over that water, the evaporation that drives the storm is no longer occurring.  The wind slows down, and once the humidity the storm was already carrying in from the ocean is lost in the form of rain, the storm dissipates. [3]

Although hurricanes are most famous for the damage they do on land in coastal areas, they are truly storms of the sea, always forming over water and losing their fury upon reaching dry ground.



[1] USA Today
Why Hurricanes Hit in Summer, Early Fall

How Do Hurricanes Form?

[3]Department of Geosciences San Francisco State University
Hurricane Questions]

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