Hurricanes occur because during the summer months, warm air over the ocean rises to leave an area of low pressure, into which cool air immediately flows. This air too warms up and rises, and new pockets of cool air take its place. As the cycle repeats itself, the warm air eventually cools far above the surface to create clouds, and a hurricane can form.
When the mass of air and cloud becomes massive enough, it begins to rotate clockwise if it forms south of the equator, or counter clockwise if it is north. The area of highest pressure is the center, or “eye,” of the hurricane. By the time a hurricane reaches land, it no longer has new pockets of warm ocean air to fuel it, but it can still take a long time for the storm to lose its power. There are five different classifications of hurricane, with Category 1 being least severe and Category 5 causing catastrophic damage.
Hurricanes and cyclones are similar, but only hurricanes form near North America, either over the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean or over the Atlantic Ocean. While hurricanes do help regulate the earth’s temperature by moving hot air from the equator to temperate areas of the globe, they are extremely destructive forces of nature. It can be difficult to prepare for an oncoming storm, since some hurricanes can be several hundred miles in diameter and produce winds that reach 200 mph.