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General Studies 1 >> World Geography

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1. Context
Hurricane Beryl became the earliest storm on record during the Atlantic hurricane season to have reached the highest Category 5 classification.
2. What is a hurricane?
  • A hurricane is a powerful tropical cyclone characterized by a low-pressure center, thunderstorms, and strong winds that rotate around the center (also known as the eye)
  • Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters near the equator. The warm, moist air rises, causing an area of low pressure beneath it. As this air rises and cools, it condenses into clouds and storms. The Earth's rotation causes the storm system to spin, and if the conditions are right, it can develop into a hurricane
  • Hurricanes, or tropical storms, form over warm ocean waters near the equator. When the warm, moist air from the ocean surface rises upward, a lower air pressure area is formed below. Air from surrounding areas with higher air pressure rushes into this low pressure area, eventually rising, after it also becomes warm and moist
  • As warm, moist air rises, it cools down, and the water in the air forms clouds and thunderstorms. This whole system of clouds and winds gains strength and momentum using the ocean’s heat, and the water that evaporates from its surface. Storm systems with wind speeds of 119 kmph and above are classified as hurricanes


  • Eye: The calm center of the hurricane with clear skies and light winds.
  • Eye Wall: Surrounding the eye, it contains the most intense winds and heaviest rains.
  • Rain Bands: Bands of heavy rain that spiral outward from the eye wall.

Classification: Hurricanes are classified by their wind speeds using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale:

  • Category 1: 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h)
  • Category 2: 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h)
  • Category 3: 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h)
  • Category 4: 130-156 mph (209-251 km/h)
  • Category 5: 157 mph or higher (252 km/h or higher)
3. What is the difference between hurricanes and typhoons?

Hurricanes and typhoons are essentially the same weather phenomenon - intense tropical cyclones. The main difference is the location where they occur:

  1. Hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean and the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
  2. Typhoons develop in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

Both are characterized by strong winds, heavy rainfall, and potential storm surges. The same type of storm in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific is called a cyclone


Subject Hurricanes Typhoons
Definition Intense tropical cyclones Intense tropical cyclones
Location Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean Northwestern Pacific Ocean
Wind Speed Strong winds Strong winds
Rainfall Heavy Heavy
4.What causes the Hurricane?

Hurricanes are caused by a interplay of atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Here are the key factors that lead to hurricane formation:

    • Warm ocean water: Temperatures of at least 26.5°C (80°F) to a depth of about 50 meters.
    • Moist air: High humidity in the lower and middle levels of the troposphere.
    • Unstable atmosphere: Allowing for rising air to continue to rise.
    • Distance from the equator: At least 300 miles north or south, for the Coriolis effect to influence rotation.
    • Pre-existing weather disturbance: Such as a tropical wave or low-pressure system.
    • Low wind shear: Minimal change in wind speed or direction with height.
    • Upper-level high pressure: To help with the outflow at the top of the storm.
5. How does climate change impact extreme weather events?

Climate change has a significant impact on extreme weather events. Here's an overview of the key effects:

    • Increased frequency and intensity:
      • More frequent heatwaves
      • Stronger hurricanes and tropical storms
      • More intense rainfall events
    • Changes in patterns:
      • Shifting precipitation patterns
      • Longer dry spells in some regions
      • Extended wildfire seasons
    • Sea level rise:
      • Increased coastal flooding
      • More damaging storm surges
    • Temperature extremes:
      • Higher maximum temperatures
      • More frequent record-breaking heat events
    • Ecosystem disruption:
      • Changes in animal migration patterns
      • Shifts in plant blooming seasons
    • Melting ice and snow:
      • Reduced snow cover
      • Faster glacier melting
      • Thawing permafrost
    • Ocean impacts:
      • Ocean acidification
      • Coral bleaching events
    • Economic and social consequences:
      • Increased damage to infrastructure
      • Agricultural disruptions
      • Potential for climate-related migration
6. Way Forward
Scientists are still debating over how exactly climate change impacts hurricanes. There is agreement, however, that at the very least, climate change makes hurricanes more prone to rapid intensification — where maximum wind speeds increase very quickly
For Prelims: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change- that do not require subject specialisation
For Mains: GS-I, GS-III: Geography, Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Source: Indianexpress

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