Know your hurricanes: Categories not as informative as you’d think
By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Emily Benito
TUSCALOOSA – Hurricane categorizations may not be as informational as you think. Hurricanes and tropical storms have categories based solely on wind speed. This means flooding and rainfall are not included in the categorization.
Dr. Hamed Moftakhari, University of Alabama Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, says this could cause problems when alerting people on how to prepare for the storms.
“This might yield in miscommunication of hurricanes and risks associated with that. The reason is that in many cases, according to reports over the past decades, in many cases the majority of damage and casualties have been associated with the floods related to those hurricanes, not necessarily the wind damage,” Moftakhari said.
The way hurricanes form and build force has many more factors influencing than just the wind.
“We need to think about this more fully and see how we can get this prepared, be resilient against these, and recognize these are multi-dimensional problems. These are not just technical, not only social or governmental. These are all different aspects. If you look at the drivers, it is called compound. So we need to move better toward guidelines that help us get prepared and resilient against those compound hazards,” Moftakhari said.
Hurricanes are caused by humid air flowing upward at a zone of low pressure over warm ocean water.
The air in a hurricane rotates as it rises due to the Coriolis Effect. This effect causes air to rotate right in the northern hemisphere and left in the southern hemisphere because it depends on the way the earth rotates.
Air with higher air pressure pushes into the low-pressure area. This air now becomes warm and also rises. It’s a cycle of air warming and rising and then new air takes its place to create a swirl which then cools down and forms clouds. This process then leads to increasing wind speed and eventually forms the eye of the hurricane.
Officials advise people in a storm’s path to frequently check torrential rain and flood warnings.