Gongol.com Archives: September 2023

Brian Gongol

September 11, 2023

Weather and Disasters Powering tropical weather

With a forward speed of just 7 miles per hour, the eyewall of Hurricane Lee could be outrun by a pretty average jogger (assuming the jogger could stay on land). But the hurricane itself is powerful. The familiar Saffir-Simpson scale, which categorizes storms by wind speeds, rates Lee (with 115-mph winds) as a Category 3 storm. ■ The real measure of hurricanes ought to be the depth of its central low pressure -- a better measure of strength and of damage potential than wind speeds alone. The public takes its cues on science from the measurements it can understand. Wind speeds are familiar, of course, but they leave out vital information. ■ It has been estimated that the oceans are absorbing most of the excess heat energy that human activities have released into the world around us. And what we need to center in the public awareness is that excess energy is reallocated by weather systems from the water to the atmosphere. ■ The amount of energy involved is staggering -- a single hurricane release energy on a scale comparable to all the electricity generated by human behavior. ■ But even that apparently isn't enough to deplete the excess energy in the oceans right now; not if Hurricane Lee can move so slowly and keep on drawing in new fuel. And that's why tropical cylones ought to be described more by their pressures than by their wind speeds. It all comes down to energy, and there's a great deal of it going around right now.

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