EYE OF THE STORM
Monday, September 1, 2008.
From Cuba to Jamaica, Hurricane Gustav has caused devastation in the Caribbean, and it is now making its way to America. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and more than 80 people killed so far.
Below, we give you the lowdown on hurricanes.
What are hurricanes and how do you forecast them?
The terms "hurricane" and "typhoon" are regionally specific names for a strong "tropical cyclone". A tropical cyclone is
the generic term for a non-frontal synoptic scale
low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters
with organized convection - that is thunderstorm activity -and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation.
Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 17 m/s (34 kt, 39 mph) are called "tropical
This is not to be confused with the condition mid-latitude people get during a long, cold and grey winter wishing they could be closer to the equator.
Once the tropical cyclone reaches winds of at least 17 m/s (34 kt, 39 mph) they are typically called a "tropical storm" and assigned a name.
If winds reach 33 m/s (64 kt, 74 mph)), then they are called "Hurricane".
Where do they get their names from?
Tropical cyclones are named to provide ease of
communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings.
Since the storms can often last a week or longer and that
more than one can be occurring in the same basin at the
same time, names can reduce the confusion about what
storm is being described.
The first use of a proper name for a tropical cyclone was by an Australian forecaster early in the 20th century. He gave tropical cyclone names after political figures whom he disliked. By properly naming a hurricane, this weatherman could publicly describe a politician - who perhaps was not too generous with weather-bureau appropriations - as "causing great distress" or "wandering aimlessly about the Pacific."
During World War II, tropical cyclones were informally given women's names by the US Army Air Corp and Navy
meteorologists who were monitoring and forecasting tropical cyclones over the Pacific. Initially, the names were those of their girlfriends and wives.
From 1950 to 1952, tropical cyclones of the