How Are Hurricanes Made?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 24, 2020 7:29:24 PM ET

Hurricanes are made when tropical storms form over sections of the ocean with warm, moist air and enough wind to begin a spiral. The primary cause is the latent heat from water evaporating off the surface of the ocean, which causes atmospheric imbalances that can increase wind speeds to hurricane levels. These can be higher than 150 miles an hour around the hurricane's eye.

Hurricanes are cyclones that form near the equator in the Atlantic or much of the Pacific ocean. Cyclones along the East Asian coast are called typhoons. They both form in the same ways and can render the same kind of destruction on coastal cities.

According to NASA, hurricanes begin with warm moisture rising off the ocean. This warm moisture is picked up by wind patterns close to the surface of the water and forms into a spiral. Thunderstorm cells, marked by cumulonimbus, or anvil-shaped, clouds, collect around the emerging hurricane and draw the warm air into the upper atmosphere in an increasingly corkscrewed wind pattern. From there, the hurricane creates high winds, massive waves and rapid rainfall, each of which is dangerous to ships.

It is easiest for hurricanes to start if weather disturbances, such as thunderstorms, are already present. Although hurricanes start in warm ocean waters, they can reach coasts and travel great distances from the equator. However, once a hurricane moves into too cold a climate or over land, it begins to weaken.