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How do hurricanes gain strength?

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Quick Answer

According to NASA, a hurricane gets its strength as it passes over warm ocean waters. These storms are low-pressure areas that form over warm ocean waters in the summer and early fall.

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How do hurricanes gain strength?
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Full Answer

A hurricane starts out as a tropical disturbance, which is an area over warm water with forming rain clouds. A tropical disturbance can grow into a tropical depression if it reaches winds up to 38 miles per hour, and this can form a tropical storm when temperatures get to at least 39 miles per hour. Once wind speeds hit at least 74 miles per hour, the tropical storm will become a hurricane.

Although scientists don’t know exactly how or why a hurricane forms, they do know that a hurricane requires water temperatures of at least 79 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA can see the formation of hurricanes with the use of satellites that take pictures from space. Some of these satellites can measure cloud and ocean temperatures, speed and direction of the wind and how fast the rain is falling in the area.

There are five different categories of hurricanes, each with its own top speeds. A category one hurricane features winds of up to 95 miles per hour and does the least damage. A category five hurricane is the deadliest and has winds of up to 155 miles per hour.

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