FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) –
Tropical cyclones are like engines requiring warm, moist air as fuel. So, the first ingredient needed for a tropical cyclone is warm ocean water. That is why tropical cyclones form only in tropical regions where the ocean is at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit for at least the top 50 meters (about 165 feet) below the surface.
The second ingredient for a tropical cyclone is wind. In the case of hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean, the wind blowing westward across the Atlantic from Africa provides the necessary ingredient. As the wind passes over the ocean’s surface, water evaporates (turns into water vapor) and rises. As it rises, the water vapor cools, and condenses back into large water droplets, forming large cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds are just the beginning.
When wind speeds within such a storm reach 74 mph, it’s classified as a hurricane. The terms “hurricane” and “tropical cyclone” refer to the same kind of storm: a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation.
During just one hurricane, raging winds can churn out about half as much energy as the electrical generating capacity of the entire world, while cloud and rain formation from the same storm might release a staggering 400 times that amount.