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How Are Hurricanes Formed?


Hurricanes form when warm air masses over tropical sections of the ocean rise to create an area of low pressure. Air from the surrounding region is pulled into the low-pressure area, where it too is heated and rises, driving the air pressure further downward. This air movement combines with the rotation of the earth to create a spinning mass of clouds. Once the air pressure gets low enough and the wind speeds are high enough, the storm is considered a hurricane. [1]

A Hurricane is Region-Specific

These types of storms are not solely geo-specific to the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific oceans, but they are the only locations that ‘hurricanes’ occur.  Hurricane is simply a region-specific name for the more generic scientific term tropical cyclone.  You will encounter a hurricane if it occurs in the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E, the North Atlantic, or the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the dateline.  You will encounter a typhoon if it occurs in the Northwest Pacific west of the dateline.  The tropical cyclone is called a sever tropical cyclone or category 3 cyclone in the Southwest Pacific Ocean or the Southeast Indian Ocean, a very severe cyclonic storm in the North Indian Ocean, and a tropical cyclone in the Southwest Indian Ocean. [2]

Wind Speeds Define Status

The wind speed must be at least 74 miles per hour for the storm to be considered a hurricane. If the wind speeds are between 39 and 73 miles per hour, the storm is called a tropical storm. Rotating storms with wind speeds below 39 miles per hour are called tropical depressions. Once formed, hurricanes may lose strength if they drift over land or cooler masses of water. If the wind speeds fall too low, the storm may lose its hurricane status, or get it back if the winds strengthen again. [3]



How Do Hurricanes Form?

[2]Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory
What Is a Hurricane, Typhoon, or Tropical Cyclone?

[3]National Weather Service: National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Lifecycle and Hazards

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