Global Geological And Climatic Events

What are hurricanes, their types?    


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm

Mains level: What are hurricanes and how do they form?

Why in the news?

Due to Hurricane Beryl sweeping through the Windward Islands, the Indian Men’s cricket team, victorious in the T20 World Cup, finds itself stranded in Barbados.

What do we know about Hurricane Beryl?

  • Early Category 4 Storm: Hurricane Beryl is the earliest category 4 storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, sustaining winds of at least 130 miles per hour (209 kilometres per hour).
  • Location and Impact: It is currently affecting the Windward Islands in the southern part of the Lesser Antilles, including Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Forecast: The National Hurricane Centre has issued warnings for life-threatening winds and storm surges in the affected islands, with the potential for violent winds and flash flooding.
  • Preparations: Local authorities in Barbados have suspended school classes and taken other precautions, such as shutting down the water supply, in anticipation of the hurricane’s impact.
  • Historical Context: Hurricane Beryl is noted as the strongest storm to impact the Windward Islands since Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

What are hurricanes and how do they form?

  • Formation: Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters near the equator where warm, moist air rises from the ocean’s surface, creating low air pressure.
  • Fuel: They are fueled by the heat and moisture evaporating from the ocean, forming clouds and spinning due to the Earth’s rotation.
  • Eye Formation: As the storm system intensifies, an eye forms at its centre, with storms rotating counterclockwise north of the equator and clockwise south of it.
  • Impact of Warming World: Warmer sea surface temperatures due to climate change may lead to slower decay of hurricanes upon landfall, potentially increasing their severity.

Are hurricanes becoming more severe now?

  • Research Findings: Studies suggest that warmer sea surface temperatures contribute to the slower decay of hurricanes, potentially prolonging their destructive impacts inland.
  • Record-Breaking Seasons: The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season has seen a record number of named storms, indicating a trend towards more frequent and intense hurricane activity.

What is the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm?

  • No Fundamental Difference: Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are all types of tropical cyclones, named differently based on their location:
  • Hurricanes: Form over the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • Typhoons: Form in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
  • Cyclones: Form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
  • Naming Conventions: The different names signify regional differences but refer to the same meteorological phenomenon of tropical cyclones.

Way forward: 

  • Implementation of Advanced Forecasting Technologies: Invest in state-of-the-art meteorological tools and satellite technology to enhance the accuracy and lead time of hurricane forecasts.
  • Community Preparedness Programs: Establish comprehensive community outreach programs to educate residents about hurricane risks, evacuation procedures, and emergency shelter locations.

Mains PYQ:

Q Discuss the meaning of colour-coded weather warnings for cyclone prone areas given by India Meteorological Department. (UPSC IAS/2014)

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