16 Effects of Hurricanes on the Environment

The effects of hurricanes on the environment can be overwhelming even running into billions of dollars in losses but, there are also positive effects of hurricanes. In this article, we will discuss the positive and negative effects of hurricanes.

Tropical storms are referred to by the labels hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones. Depending on where they’re found, they’re given different names. Hurricanes are named hurricanes in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Northeast Pacific Ocean, whereas typhoons are called typhoons in the Northwest Pacific. In the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, tropical storms are known as cyclones.

Hurricanes are among the most damaging natural disasters that occur today. Every year, they cause property damage and fatalities.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the Great Galveston Hurricane, the world’s largest hurricane, struck the United States in the early 1900s. The catastrophic cyclone claimed over 1000 lives and caused an estimated $25 billion in damage in today’s money.

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a storm system that revolves around a low-pressure point and produces intense winds and rain. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that rotate counterclockwise and have wind speeds of more than 74 miles per hour. The majority of hurricanes form around the equator, over warm oceans.

Tropical storms that occur in the Atlantic Ocean and have winds of at least 119 kilometres per hour (74 miles per hour) are known as hurricanes. The calm eye at the centre, the eyewall, where the winds and rains are the highest, and the rain bands, which spin out from the centre and give the storm its magnitude, are the three primary sections of a hurricane.

If the wind speed is between 34 and 63 knots, the system is categorized as a tropical storm, and if the wind speed surpasses 63 knots, it is labelled as a hurricane. A hurricane is on average 500 miles broad and 10 miles high, and it rushes forward at 17 knots like a massive spinning top. When the sun heats the ocean surface, heated water vapour rises to the surface, condenses, and forms clouds.

As the planet spins, the clouds spiral inward, pulling air beneath them and forming a massive vortex. They form in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the southern Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.

A tropical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms and a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface in the Northern Hemisphere. Each year, six (6) Atlantic hurricanes develop on average.

When a hurricane makes landfall in a crowded coastal location, it frequently causes extensive damage. Storm surges, floods, and even tornadoes are all caused by strong winds. The right-front quadrant of a storm is usually where the most damage happens as it advances.

Hurricanes lose strength overland because the hot water that keeps them alive is no longer available.

Hurricanes are powerful storms that can bring life-threatening hazards such as flooding, storm surge, high winds, and tornadoes to people and property. The best defence against the perils of a hurricane is preparation.
From June 1 to November 30, the hurricane season is in full swing. Even if a storm does not form, there is usually more rain during this time.

Hurricanes are classified into one of five categories by meteorologists using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. A significant storm is defined as one with a category of three to five. Wind speeds in a category five storm reach 252 kilometres per hour (157 miles per hour). As the storm collides with or brushes against the land, coastal areas are generally the hardest hit by the devastating winds, precipitation, and storm surges.

The parts of a hurricane are as follows:

The Eye

It’s right in the middle of the hurricane’s eye. The eye has a diameter of 20 to 40 miles on average. Typhoons, which occur in the Pacific, can have an eye diameter of 50 miles. The eye is the centre of the storm. Calm winds, clear skies, and low air pressure characterize the inside of the eye.

The Eye Wall

The area surrounding the eye is known as the eyewall. It has a diameter of 5 to 30 miles on average. The most intense and damaging winds are found near the eyewall. Also, this is where the heaviest rains fall.

Rain Bands

This is a ring of dense clouds that wraps around the eyewall in a spiral. They are to blame for the hurricane’s pinwheel appearance. These thick swarms of storms spin slowly in the opposite direction.

Their average breadth varies between 50 and 300 miles. When the eye and bands of the storm are obscured by higher-level clouds, it’s difficult for weather forecasters to use satellite imagery to keep an eye on the storm.

Causes of Hurricanes

Warm water and moist, warm air are two vital elements in every hurricane. Hurricanes start in the tropics for this reason. Many Atlantic hurricanes form when thunderstorms on Africa’s west coast drift out over warm ocean waters of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) and collide with converging winds from near the equator. Other hurricanes originate in the Gulf of Mexico, where unstable air pockets form.

Hurricanes arise when warm, moist air rising fast from the ocean surface collides with cooler air, causing the heated water vapour to condense and produce storm clouds and raindrops. Condensation also releases latent heat, which warms the cool air above and causes it to rise, allowing additional warm, humid air from the ocean below to enter.

More warm, moist air is sucked into the building storm as the cycle continues, and more heat is transmitted from the ocean’s surface to the atmosphere. Like water flowing down a drain, this continuous heat exchange forms a wind pattern that spirals around a relatively calm centre.

If conditions remain unchanged, which implies there is adequate fuel for the storm to develop further, the spinning storm will continue to strengthen, eventually becoming a hurricane. When a hurricane continues to strengthen and becomes powerful enough, an opening known as the eye forms in the centre.

The storm’s eye has a visible circular core. The greatest winds are found near the eye, which implies that as you travel closer to the eye, the winds become stronger. The area surrounding the eye, known as the eyewall, contains far greater winds than the eye itself.

Winds can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when a bigger hurricane forms. When storms lose energy, it implies they’ve reached cooler waters or reached the coast, and they begin to weaken and eventually die.

The wind moves from storms to hurricanes in three stages dependent on wind speeds:

  1. Tropical depression: Wind speeds of less than 38 miles per hour (61.15 kilometres per hour)
  2. Tropical Storm: Winds of 39 mph to 73 mph (62.76 kph to 117.48 kph) are expected.
  3. Hurricane: Winds exceeding 74 mph (119.09 km/h).

Positive Effects of Hurricanes

The following are the positive effects of hurricanes.

  • Bring Rainfall to Areas That Need It
  • Break Up Bacteria and Red Tide
  • Assist in achieving a global heat balance
  • Re-establish the Barrier Islands
  • Rejuvenate the flora and fauna of the inland
  • Archaeological importance
  • Benefit to Marine Life

1. Bring Rainfall to Areas That Need It

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they bring rainfall to areas that need it. Hurricanes bring a lot of rain, which provides a lot of respite from drought conditions. Rainstorms can be felt hundreds of kilometres away from the storm’s epicentre.

They improve rainfall availability by 25% for countries such as Japan, India, and Southeast Asia. Another example is the remains of Hurricane Isaac in 2012, which dumped around 5 inches of rain on the Corn Belt crops in the Midwest of the United States. Of course, tropical cyclone rain can be “too much of a good thing” in drought-stricken areas.

2. Break Up Bacteria and Red Tide

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they break up bacteria and red tide. Winds and waves throw the water’s contents as tropical cyclones move over the ocean. This mixing breaks up bacteria spots in the water, potentially bringing the red tide, which can occur along the Gulf Coast and the West Coast, to an end sooner.

Winds can also aid to oxygenate the water at the surface, restoring life to areas where the red tide once occurred.

3. Assist in achieving a global heat balance

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they assist in achieving a global heat balance. Hurricanes serve a variety of roles around the world, including maintaining a temperature equilibrium between the poles and the equator. Because of the position of our planet’s polar axis, this temperature imbalance will always persist. On an annual average, the equator receives more solar energy, known as insolation, than any other latitude.

This insolation raises the temperature of the ocean, which raises the temperature of the air above it and keeps it warmer well into the autumn. Hurricanes are one of the ways the Earth tries to share this heated richness over the world. Other factors include mid-latitude storm systems and oceanic currents. Hurricanes are particularly efficient movers of tropical heat due to their magnitude and interactions with the upper levels of the atmosphere.

If tropical cyclones did not exist, the equator would be slightly warmer and the poles could be far cooler. This marine heat is progressively wrung out in thunderstorms as hurricanes advance poleward, rather than being simply destroyed after being withdrawn from the ocean. Hurricanes leave behind cold water that can weaken new hurricanes that pass through the same area.

4. Re-establish the Barrier Islands

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they re-establish the barrier islands. Although most photographs of barrier islands after hurricanes show beaten-up expanses of land, barrier islands are frequently restored when hurricanes pass by.

Hurricanes may take up large amounts of sand, nutrients, and sediment from the ocean floor and transport it to the barrier islands. As sand is pushed or tugged in that direction by storm surges, wind, and waves, these islands are frequently moved closer to the mainland.

Barrier islands would eventually diminish and sink into the ocean if tropical cyclones or artificial restoration were not present. Hurricanes, such as Charley in 2004, can cause significant barrier island damage, although even that storm carried some beneficial sand to the coast.

5. Rejuvenate the flora and fauna of the inland

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they rejuvenate the flora and fauna of the inland. During a hurricane, anything that isn’t blown around on the ground can be dragged hundreds of miles downstream. As hurricanes make landfall, their wind sweeps spores and seeds further inland than they would ordinarily fall; as storms move away from the coast, this effect can be seen a thousand miles inland. After fires and urbanization, these seeds can help to restore lost growth.

Tropical systems frequently decrease tree leaves, which can help firefighters fight fires. Pruning trees to reduce damage can also be beneficial. The loss of foliage after hurricanes and other natural disasters, according to a study, enhances long-distance seed dispersion. Hurricanes can bring in fresh nutrients and sediment, causing plant growth surges that can lead to an increase in animal life.

6. Archaeological importance

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they are of archaeological importance. Archaeologists have benefited from the ferocity of storms by uncovering the wreckage of wrecked aeroplanes, shipwrecks, and other historical treasures in tidal sites where debris, silt, and sand are carried away by the storm surge. In 2012, Hurricane Isaac, for example, exposed Rachel’s fragments. The Rachel was a Schooner that was built during the First World War.

7. Benefit to Marine Life

One of the positive effects of hurricanes is that they benefit marine life. Hurricanes may be beneficial to marine life as well. The minerals on the ocean’s bottom are mixed up when they churn the water, increasing the ocean’s productivity.

Negative Effects of Hurricanes

The negative effects of hurricanes are:

  • Storm Surge & Storm Tide
  • Inland Flooding Due to Heavy Rainfall
  • High Winds
  • Rip Currents
  • Tornadoes
  • Destruction of Buildings
  • Effect on humans
  • Ecological impact
  • Agricultural impact

1. Storm Surge & Storm Tide

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause storm surges and storm tides. The storm surge is one of the most dangerous side effects of hurricanes. When the hurricane reaches the coast, this happens. Hurricanes’ storm surges and big waves pose the greatest threat to life and property along the coast. Storm Surge is an abnormal increase in water caused by the winds of a storm. Storm surges can exceed 20 feet in height and cover hundreds of kilometres of coastline.

Storm tide is the rise in water level caused by the combination of storm surge and astronomical tide during a storm. Storm surges and large pounding waves have the potential to cause death, property damage, beach and dune erosion, and road and bridge damage along the coast. Storm surge has the potential to travel several miles inland. Saltwater intrusion endangers public health and the ecosystem in estuaries and bayous.

2. Inland Flooding Due to Heavy Rainfall

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause inland flooding due to heavy rainfall. Hurricanes can cause tremendous rainfall, typically between 6 and 12 inches, which can result in catastrophic and destructive floods. Flooding is the most serious threat posed by tropical cyclones to inland residents.

Due to heavy rainfall, flash flooding, which is defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly. River and stream flooding can last for several days after a storm. When a hurricane approaches the land, it may produce thunderstorms.

Tropical cyclone rainfall quantities are not directly proportional to the storm’s severity, but rather to the storm’s speed and size, as well as the geography of the area. Storms that are slower moving and larger deliver more rainfall. Furthermore, a tropical cyclone’s rainfall is enhanced by steep topography.

3. High Winds

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause high winds. The winds of a tropical storm are powerful enough to be deadly to people trapped in them. As a result, disaster managers expect to complete their evacuations and protect their staff before the arrival of tropical-storm-force winds, not hurricane-force winds.

Buildings and mobile houses can be destroyed by hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or more. During hurricanes, debris such as signs, roofing material, siding, and tiny items left outside become flying missiles. Winds can continue to be strong enough to cause hurricane-force winds well inland.

With winds of more than 100 mph, Hurricane Charley made landfall near Punta Gorda on the southwest Florida coast in 2004 and caused major damage well inland over central Florida.

According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which evaluates potential property damage based on the hurricane’s sustained wind speed, hurricanes in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific are divided into five categories.

4. Rip Currents

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause rip currents. A tropical cyclone’s high winds can produce severe waves, posing a serious threat to seafarers as well as coastal inhabitants and visitors. Even at great distances from the storm, rip currents can be fatal when waves break along the coast. Rip currents are channelled currents of water that flow away from the shore, usually past the breaking wave line, and can drag even the strongest swimmers away from the shore.

Although Hurricane Bertha was more than 1,000 miles offshore in 2008, the hurricane caused rip currents along the New Jersey coast that killed three people and necessitated 1,500 lifeguard rescues in Ocean City, Maryland, during one week. In 2009, all six deaths in the United States directly related to tropical cyclones were drownings caused by huge waves or severe rip currents.

5. Tornadoes

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause tornadoes. Some hurricanes will likely cause several tornadoes to form. Tornadoes most typically form in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands far from the hurricane’s centre, but they can sometimes form near the eyewall. Tornadoes created by tropical cyclones are typically weak and short-lived, but they can still be dangerous. It usually occurs when the land area where the cyclone has made landfall is still under a low-pressure system.

6. Destruction of Buildings

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause the destruction of buildings. A hurricane moves at breakneck speed. High winds have the potential to destroy a structure. In such instances, the winds are likely to carry large bits of material. Something could fall from the sky and cause serious injury or perhaps death to a person. They’re not just dropping on you; the wind is throwing them at you.

7. Effect on humans

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause adverse effects on humans. Hurricane winds are capable of wreaking havoc. Waves, storm surges, rain, and river floods, on the other hand, can cause widespread devastation. The amount of damage caused is determined by some factors, including the storm’s magnitude, severity, and approach angle.

Although a collapsing building might cause injury and death, the most serious consequences of a hurricane occur after the storm has passed. Property and infrastructure that have been destroyed might take years to recover, which has an economic impact on individuals.

8. Ecological impact

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause adverse ecological impacts. Because of the damaging winds, storm surges, and flooding, Plants and animals can be wiped out during hurricanes. Animals that rely on these critters for food may perish if no other food source can be located. Hurricanes wreak the most havoc on beaches, which are degraded as storms reach the coast.

Severe hurricanes can wash away creatures that live on beaches. Coral reefs and oyster beds are commonly impacted by sediment erosion and deposition. Hurricanes introduce saltwater to neighbouring freshwater streams and lakes, resulting in massive fish kills and habitat degradation.

9. Agricultural impact

One of the negative effects of hurricanes is that they cause agricultural impacts. Hurricanes can have a significant impact on agriculture. Hurricanes, for example, can damage crops and kill cattle due to heavy rains and powerful gusts. The main concern for most farmers is crop contamination caused by floodwaters. Heavy rains and flooding have caused hog lagoons to fill up and overflow.

Certain crop species may be contaminated by the overflowing water. As a result of the extreme effect of seed flooding, this event could result in a loss of yield. Agricultural losses from hurricanes can range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the size and severity of the storm.

16 Effects of Hurricanes on the Environment – FAQs

How do Hurricanes Form?

For a hurricane to form, the following five conditions must be present:

  • Sea surface temperatures of at least 26.5°C are required down to a depth of at least 50m, causing the overlying atmosphere to be unstable enough to support convection and thunderstorms;
  • Rapid cooling with height, allowing the release of the heat of condensation that drives the hurricane;
  • High humidity, particularly in the lower-to-mid troposphere, feeds the storm with moisture;
  • Low wind shear is preferable to strong shear since it disrupts the storm’s circulation.
  • Hurricanes arise at latitudes greater than 5 degrees north or south of the equator, allowing the Coriolis force to deflect winds away from the low-pressure centre and create circulation.
  • The eye of the storm, also known as the inner core, is a sinking air pocket at the centre of the cyclone. The weather in the eye is usually clear and tranquil. The eye is round, with a diameter ranging from 2 to 230 miles.

What is the Main Cause of Hurricanes?

Hurricanes are formed by a combination of warm water, moist warm air, and weak upper-level winds. Hurricanes form when quantities of warm, wet air rise swiftly from the ocean’s surface and clash with volumes of cooler air.

How are Hurricanes Named?

Tropical storms are given names to give them a distinct identity when predictions and warnings are issued.

The US National Hurricane Center names storms in the North Atlantic (NHC). Since 1979, there have been six different lists of names in use. Male and female names alternate on the lists, which are in alphabetical order. Although the names of major hurricanes are retired by the NHC on request, the lists are recycled after six years. Except for Q, U, X, Y, and Z, all letters of the alphabet are used, and if all of the names on a list are used, storms are called after Greek alphabet letters (Alpha, Beta, etc.).

With 28 storms, the 2005 season was the most active in recorded history. It was the first season to employ “V” and “W” names, and when the official alphabetical names ran out after Wilma, forecasters reported for the first time to utilizing letters from the Greek alphabet.

What are the 3 Most Famous Hurricanes?

  1. San Felipe-Okeechobee Hurricane, 1928: 1,836 deaths
  2. Hurricane Katrina, 2005: 1,200 deaths
  3. Atlantic-Gulf, 1919: 600 to 900 deaths

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