The 2014 Hurricane season is underway. This time of year our team of Meteorologists is always keeping their on eyes on the tropics. Have you ever wondered how hurricanes form, and what exactly we're looking for?
First we need an air mass with warm air near the surface and cooler air aloft, we call this instability. This causes the air to rise and clouds to form. This rising motion then leads to the development of an area of thunderstorm activity.
In order for this thunderstorm development to continue to grow and organize it needs three things. The first is a moist environment. This moisture feeds thunderstorms and allows them to keep developing. Second, the change of speed and direction of winds with height, what you hear us refer to as wind shear, must be very little. Finally, water temperatures must above 80 degrees to supply continuous energy to the storm. If conditions are right, our storm will begin to form.
Once we have an organized area of thunderstorms, it becomes all about the wind speeds. If those wind speeds are equal to less than 38 mph, we have what's known as a tropical depression. If speeds increase to 39 mph or more, it becomes a tropical storm, and it's at this point that we name the system. If winds speeds are able to strengthen to 74 mph or more, we have a full fledged hurricane.
During the early months of the hurricane season, and particularly in June, we look to the Gulf of Mexico and portions of the Western Caribbean for tropical development. As the season goes on, development areas will spread out into the Atlantic.
Precise tracking and accurate forecasting are key when it comes to hurricanes, and it's what we're all about in the 13 First Alert Storm Center.