Why does a hurricane lose strength as it passes over land?

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dcbiostat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hurricanes may lose strength over land because of cool temperatures, a lack of moisture, and/or friction.

Hurricanes form over low pressure regions with warm temperatures over large bodies of water. The warm temperature causes the ocean water to evaporate. The moisture is what fuels a hurricane. As the hurricane moves over land, the hurricane is no longer fueled by this moisture. Therefore, the hurricane begins to slow down and die as it moves further inland.

Secondly, hurricanes experience more friction over land than over the ocean water. This also slows down hurricanes.

Hurricanes do not only dissipate over land. Cool waters and strong winds may also decrease the strength of a hurricane.  A hurricane will begin to dissipate over cooler waters because cooler waters do not evaporate as much and, therefore, provide less moisture. Hurricanes need light winds at high levels in the atmosphere. A hurricane may be ripped apart by strong winds at high levels.

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