This being my senior project I wanted to look at a topic that I found interesting. Even though I find most topics in the fields interesting, none catch my attention better than natural disasters. I have always found disasters intriguing and have wanted to know more about them. The disaster that I found most interesting were Hurricanes. The thought of those storms with their power gives me the chills. Ever since I was in the middle of Hurricane Bob when I was vacationing with my family off the coast of Virginia and we were asked by the state police to evacuate our house, I wanted to learn more about hurricanes. Since that I have been able to take classes that enabled me to learn more about hurricanes. That is why I have decided to take the focus of my paper towards hurricanes. Furthermore, I am going to look at the economical affects that hurricanes have on the United States. There are many reasons why I chose to use this variable. The main reason is I couldn't think of another topic that fit into everyone's lives and had an effect on everyone.
The hurricane year is broken up into two seasons. They are referred to as early season and late season. The early season starts June first and runs to September 10. The late season starts on September 10 and runs to the end of November. The date of September 10 is the midway point between the two seasons. This is the date that separates early season from late season. This leads me to what my research was about. I am writing about the differences between early season and late season hurricanes and how they effect the variable that were mentioned earlier in the paper. I feel that late season hurricanes cause more economic loss than early season hurricanes.
I will start by taking about what a hurricane is and how they are formed. Then I will discuss where they are formed in relation to the seasons and why in these places. Next I will talk about the paths that these hurricanes take in regards to the seasons. Then I will compare storms of each season from different years starting in 1988 and ending in 1995. Next I will give a brief history about some of the biggest storms to ever hit and how they compare to the window of years I researched. The data from all the years storms in terms of loss of both variables will come next followed by the reasons for this. Finally a summary will end my research.
The research of my paper will involve storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean and effect The United States and its neighbors. The main reason that I have decided to research this part of the world and not look at the rest of the world is I live in this part of the United States and have been part of one of these storms. Also the data was much easier to research. Most people think of the Atlantic when they think of hurricanes.
The first priority is to find out what exactly a hurricane is. A hurricane comes from the West Indian word hurricane, meaning "big wind" (New Orleans, weather). A hurricane forms in the tropics around warm water. It starts as a disorganized storm in the ocean. When it starts to become more organized, it will be put into the first of three classifications. The classification is tropical depression. The National Hurricane Center will get a letter to help classify the storm. When the winds of the storm reach 40mph it will go into the second classification, tropical depression. The service will give it a name at this point. The name is pre-determined based on a list that recycles every six years. The list of names for the next few years are on figure one. A name will only not appear on the list if it is retired. Finally, if the storm's wind reach 70mph, it would be classified as a hurricane. The "eye" of the hurricane is the center of the storm. This area of the storm is calm with no clouds. Around the eye the storm goes in a counter-clockwise motion. These walls are the most dangerous part of the storm. This is where the worst weather is( New Orleans, Weather). One thing that I remember from class was learning that The Northwest corner of the storm has the strongest winds while the Southeast corner has the weakest. The reason is the Northwest corner adds the actual speed of the storm to its winds while the Southeast corner subtracts the same amount wind. So if the storm was moving at 20 mph and the winds of the storm were 100mph, the NW winds would be 120mph while the SE winds would only be 80mph.The hurricanes are categorized into five categories seen in figure two.
The hurricane forms in steps. It start with a low pressure area. The air is pulled inward by the low pressure. The rotation of the Earth causes a deflection of wind to the right, causing the storm to move in a counter clockwise position. The winds on the surface accelerate near the center of the storm and is warmed up by the contact with the water(Britt, Ion Science). Here are the steps to the storm gaining strength:
1: High winds spiraling inward through bands of thunderstorms
2: whip up ocean spray, which increases evaporation. The storm begins feeding on itself, using the evaporated warm water as additional energy.
3: Rising air near the center of the storm condenses, creating heavy downpours and releasing heat that lifts the air further. This causes pressure to drop at the surface, pulling in more air and strengthening the storm.
4: Air rises to about 50,000 feet where most of it is propelled outward, making room for more rising air.
5: Some air sinks back into the center, warming it and creating the nearly cloud-free eye.( Britt, Ion Science).
These are the steps involved in the making of a hurricane from normal climatic conditions, but there are many other things that can contribute to hurricanes from not being formed. One of them is El Nino. This is a warm-water pattern of the coast of Peru. It does not happen every year. The warm water causes winds to move towards the Atlantic Ocean and act a shield and block the formation of a hurricane( Grey, CSU).There many other weather formations like this that could effect hurricane formation, but are unpredictable when they are going to happen.
Where the hurricane forms is important to the process of the project. This is not the major deciding factor, but has significance to the amount of damage. After looking at all of the maps at the Purdue site, I came to the conclusion that more of the early season hurricanes start to form in the Caribbean area while more of the late season hurricanes start on the western coast of Africa(Purdue). There are definitely exceptions to this, but for the most part it holds true.
In 1988 There was one hurricane that was formed in the Gulf of Mexico and it was an early season hurricane. The other hurricanes that year were all late season and all originated off the coast of Africa. 1989 had two early season hurricanes that were formed in the Atlantic and two that were formed in the Caribbean area. The hurricanes that were formed in the late season were all formed in the Atlantic. For the rest of my research time, there were only five exceptions top the rule. After I found where the hurricanes were formed I wanted to see when they were all formed so I chose to look at the amount of hurricanes that were formed in each season for each year that I was researching. I also was looking at the category that the storms were in. I found the following data.
1988 was the first year that I looked at. This year fits the mold perfectly. The early season had one out of the five hurricanes in the year. It was a category one. The late season have four hurricanes including one of the big ones during the time period my research covered. Gilbert reached a pressure of 888mb. It was a category 5. There were two other storms that were category 4. This year there was a definite difference between the two seasons this year.
1989 had seven hurricanes in all. Three were early season, none greater than category 2, one that stretched across both seasons, with was a category one, and three late season hurricanes, categories one, four and five. The category five hurricane was Hugo. Both seasons having three hurricanes, but the late season having larger storms.
1990 was a fairly quiet year. The early season had 4 hurricanes, one of which was the highest rated storm, Gustuv which was a category three, but never made landfall, it just moved up the Atlantic. The late season had four as well, none of which formed into a major storm. This was the weakest year in my study for hurricanes.
The next year was 1991. This year had four storms. The early season had one hurricane, a category three, but was a category one when it finally hit land. The late season had a category four and two other storms. Again, this was not the most active year for hurricanes.
1992 is the year that through a wrench into the equation. The early season had only one hurricane, but it was a category five. Andrew was a huge storm. The late season had three storms, none were higher that a category three.
1993 was a banner year for the point of more late season hurricanes. There were four hurricanes in this year, all late season. None were too large, category three the highest, but all were late season.
1994 was another weak year. Five storms, four of which were in the late season, but none were over a category two. This was a mild season building up to one of the most active seasons ever recorded.
1995 was the most active season of my research. There were eleven hurricanes, five in the early season, one of which was a category four. Felix didn't touch down on land. The late season had six storms. Two category four storms and two category three( Purdue).
The time period that I researched had some active years and some slow years, but one thing is for sure, the late season was more active than the early season overall. With the exception of Andrew, All of the major storms that were researched came in the late season. Hugo and Gilbert were two huge storms that held true to what I tried to prove. These three hurricanes were the centerpiece to my research. These were some of the biggest storms of all time. The reason that Andrew was such a big storm was it came from the Atlantic. It was one of the few exception, but it was a big exception. Hurricane Camille was another exception. It came in 1969 and was of the strongest storms ever. These major storms are so major because even though they account for only 20% of the landfall of these storms they account for 70% of the damage done by major storms(Landsea,1993). This is a major statistic. It is obvious to see why these storms are such a marvel.
The track of the storm leads to the economic data. The Atlantic hurricanes have three major tracks. They can go through the Caribbean and up through the Gulf of Mexico towards New Orleans and Texas, our they can go toward the bottom of Florida in an almost parallel fashion or they can get caught up in the Gulf Stream and hook up the United States Eastern Seaboard. Most of the early season hurricanes follow the first path, while the late season hurricanes follow the other two paths predominantly(Miller,23).The problem is that if a late season does take the first path it could be just as harmful. The major factor about economical loss is the track taken. The first track goes through a part of the world that is not as rich as some of the other world. Also, when it hits the United States, the storms are going to hit some of the poorest states in the United States. Thus the real estate down there will not be as much. This is the exact opposite for the Atlantic coast of the United States. There are many areas that could get hit. Many resorts and heavily populated areas that would mean millions of dollars in damage. Hurricane Hugo caused 7 billion dollars in damage to the city of Charleston, SC alone( Reiter). This was a classic late season hurricane. Andrew was the only hurricane in my research that completely through off the late season theory, but it did take the right track. It hit the southern part of Florida that caused 20 million dollars in damage. The good part is that if it had moved 20 miles to the north it would have caused an estimated 70 billion dollars worth of damage in the Miami area( Reiter). Another point to this is this quote from Reiter, " Applied Insurance Research estimates that in a worse-case scenario , based on the reality of past hurricanes, damage could reach $52 billion in New Orleans, $104 billion in New England and $106 in southeast Florida." What he is saying is that if the worst storm that had ever hit before came today, this would be the damage that would be caused.
The track taken and the season that the hurricane came in work together. This is the major point of this project is to show that the season and the track are critical in economical loss. After Andrew, the economical loss by the other storms in the early season do not come remotely close to adding up to the total of Andrew. That is why Andrew throws the wrench in. It was the largest storm in terms of economical loss, while the rest of the early season hurricanes didn't amount to much. The late season hurricanes caused more damage. There wasn't another Hugo to destroy a city, but the estimated total from the rest of the late season hurricanes was over $ 27 billion( Reiter).
Another reason that the late season had more damage was the season had more hurricanes and also had more that touched on land. One of the largest early season hurricanes was Felix of 1995. It never hit land. The average landfall category for early season (excluding Andrew) was 1.8. The average for the late season was 2.6( Purdue). Many more hurricanes that are not significant brought this number down, but because there were so many, it averaged out.
After looking at all of the data, I feel that I am not completely right about my theory, but found some good solid evidence. The biggest problem with the project is that it is very hard to predict the climatic patterns of the Earth. If it was easy, my project would have come out one hundred percent. I am pleased with the work that I have done and was happy to research the material. I enjoyed learning about hurricanes and how they work. I feel that most major hurricanes fall in the late season and that they take one of the two major tracks. This causes more economical damage than if it were to follow the other track in the early season. I hope someday the climate will be much easier to predict.