Why don't we see hurricanes in the South Atlantic Ocean?

The cold sea surface temperatures of the South Atlantic and atmospheric conditions, such as the tendency of the Intertropical Convergence Zone to remain in the Northern Hemisphere, make hurricane formation south of the equator unlikely. However, in March 2004, a hurricane did strike the coast of Brazil, which was a very unusual event.

Is a polar low like an Arctic hurricane?

Some strong hurricanes—such as 1992's Hurricane Andrew—have continued to be active while traveling as far north as the Arctic, but at that point they are no longer considered tropical storms or hurricanes. There is also something called a "polar low," which is like a small hurricane that can form above the Arctic Circle. Polar lows (extra-tropical lows) tend to range from 50 to 250 miles (100 to 500 kilometers) in diameter, versus tropical hurricanes that are easily twice as big in many cases. Not only are they smaller, but polar lows tend to have a shorter lifespan than southern hurricanes, rarely lasting more than 36 hours and more typically only about 12 hours. However, they can still be very intense, generating strong winds and heavy snowfalls.

Has there ever been a hurricane in Great Britain?

Well, what really occurred in Great Britain was a very intense, low-pressure system with hurricane-force winds. On January 25, 1990, a storm with winds up to 120 miles (193 kilometers) per hour hit Great Britain, killing 45 people and causing over one billion dollars in damage. Even so, Brits often remember the Great Storm of 1987 even less fondly. Though it cannot be classified as a hurricane (hurricanes are tropical events only), it killed 18 people and was, at that time, the worst storm to hit the British Isles in the last three centuries.

Has a hurricane ever made landfall in southern California?

While tropical storms have, rarely, reached southern California, there is no record of a hurricane ever reaching the coastline there. A deadly tropical storm took 45 lives in 1939, and Tropical Storm Kathleen caused lots of flooding on September 10, 1976. As for the future, who knows? Hurricanes seem to be increasing in size and number in the twenty-first century, and it is possible that one could travel across, say, northern Mexico and then reach southern California.

What is the Fujiwhara effect?

Named after Japanese meteorologist Sakuhei Fujiwhara (1884-1950), the Fujiwhara effect is what happens when two hurricanes come close enough to each other that they begin to rotate around a common central point. For this to occur, the two storms generally need to come to within 300 to 900 miles (500 to 1,500 kilometers) of each other; they also need to be of about equal strength to remain in this partnered dance, or else the stronger storm tends to swallow up the smaller storm.

How fast do the strongest hurricane winds blow?

The strongest hurricanes have winds that reach speeds over 200 miles (322 kilometers) per hour. Friction with the Earth's surface prevents winds from blowing faster than 225 miles (362 kilometers) per hour.

What is the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale?

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Damage-Potential scale, which is the full name, is a five-point scale invented in 1971 by engineer Herbert Saffir (1917-2007) and Robert Simpson (1912—), a hurricane expert. Rating hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the weakest and 5 the strongest, the scale ranks these storms according to peak wind speeds and the amount of damage they cause.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale


Wind Speeds mph/kph



74-95 / 137-176

Little, if any, damage to buildings; mobile homes may be damaged, as well as trees and shrubs; some coastal flooding and minor damage to piers.


96-110 / 177-204

Some damage to windows, roofs, and doors; more severe damage to mobile homes, piers, and plants; small watercraft break moorings if they are in unprotected areas; low-lying areas flood 2-4 hours before the hurricane arrives.


111-130 / 205-241

Mobile homes are destroyed and small residences and utility buildings are damaged; flooding is more pronounced with land lower than five feet above sea level flooded as much as six miles inland.


131-155 / 242-287

Buildings see structural failures and roofs may be completely ripped off; lower floors of buildings near the shore are severely damaged; land lower than 10 feet above sea level floods six miles inland; significant erosion of beaches and shoreline.


>155 / >287

Roofs of residential and industrial structures crumble; some buildings completely destroyed, and lower levels of most other structures within 500 yards (475 meters) of the shoreline are severely damaged and flooded to up to 15 feet (5 meters) above ground; massive evacuation of residence within 10 miles (18.5 kilometers) of the shore.

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