Why do hurricanes lose intensity?

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t-nez | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Hurricanes are fueled by warm moisture. They form over warm ocean water in tropical regions. They lose intensity as they move over cooler water and as they move over land, where there is little moisture and buildings and landforms act as obstacles.

Water has a high heat capacity, or ability to store heat. This stored heat is called "latent heat", which means "hidden".When ocean water evaporates it contains more heat than it did as a liquid. When it condenses this heat is released, creating convection currents in the surrounding air. The convection currents provide the air movement that keeps the hurricane going. As it looses heat through condensation it loses its source of sustained kinetic energy.

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Nolan McShea | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Honors

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Hurricanes can lose intensity in several different ways.

In order for a hurricane to maintain itself or grow in intensity, they need to move in an environment that has calm high-altitude winds, as well as an environment that is hot and wet (basically a large tropical body of water, which is warm and wet).

In other words, a hurricane can lose its intensity or stop growing if/when:

  • They move over land from the ocean, because on land, there is no more water for the hurricane to prosper.
  • They are in an area where there are high altitudes; this often just prevents them from growing anymore, if they are still in a warm and wet environment.
  • They are in a cold area, because the heat that they normally thrive in gives them energy to keep spinning and growing.

I hope that I have helped with your studies~

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