Hurricane What is the Life Cycle of a Hurricane?

There are several ingredients necessary for tropical cyclone development:

  1. Large area of warm ocean water of at least 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) outside of a 5 degree latitude band either side of the equator.
  2. Weak winds throughout the troposphere, the lower atmosphere of the earth.
  3. A pre-existing low-level disturbance (which is an area of low pressure and cloudiness).
  4. High pressure in the upper atmosphere above the surface disturbance.

All hurricanes follow similar cycles of development. Stage one occurs with the formation of an area of disturbed weather or a tropical disturbance. If the conditions outlined above allow for the organization of a circulation and the windspeed remains less than 34 knots (39 mph), the system is upgraded to a tropical depression. As wind speeds intensify, but are still between 35 knots (39 mph) and 64 knots (74 mph), the system becomes a tropical storm and is given a name. Once winds are sustained above 64 knots (74 mph), the system is officially upgraded to a hurricane. As long as the above criteria are met, the intensity of the hurricane will usually remain constant or even intensify.

The life cycle of a hurricane can run its course in as little as a day. "Average life of a hurricane, determined by time and place of origin and rate of forward movement, is nine days." (TCMC, 1976). The longest life cycle of a hurricane ever recorded was Tropical Cyclone Ginger, which lasted 31 days (September 5 to October 5, 1971). (Ludlum, 1982).

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