Where Do Hurricanes Get Their Strength?

Hurricanes are one of the most powerful and destructive forces on Earth. But did you ever wonder where they get their strength? The formation of a hurricane is complicated, but basically, it depends on three factors. First, you need warm water, at least 80 degrees. The second ingredient is moist air. And finally, there needs to be converging winds for a hurricane to form.

The actual process begins with a cluster of thunderstorms moving across the surface of the ocean. When the surface water is warm, the storm sucks up heat energy from the water, just like a straw sucks up a liquid. This creates moisture in the air. If wind conditions are right, the storm becomes a hurricane. This heat energy is the fuel for the storm. And the warmer the water, the more moisture is in the air. And that could mean bigger and stronger hurricanes. Satellite data shows the heat and energy transfer in action. Notice how this hurricane leaves a trail of cooler water behind.

NOAA Ocean Today has a set of eight videos that tell you all you want to know about hurricanes that you can watch here.