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Hurricanes, Physical Geography of

  • By: James B. Elsner
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Labeled a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean west of the International Dateline and a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, a hurricane is powered by the heat and moisture of the tropics rather than temperature differences across latitudes, as is the case for the more common extratropical cyclone. This entry describes the characteristics and classification of hurricanes, the types of damage they can cause, and current research on hurricane activity.

A hurricane begins as an area of low air pressure over warm ocean waters (at least 27 °C down to 50 m [meters] below the sea surface). As a result of atmospheric instability, the area of low pressure features numerous showers and thunderstorms that, over several days, organize the winds into a counterclockwise ...

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