Storm investigators flew through Hurricane Teddy on Thursday, capturing impressive imagery of the cyclone’s stadium-like eye.
A big, clear eye is indicative of a powerful hurricane (on Friday morning, Teddy packed 130 mph winds). At the storm’s core, violent thunderstorms, feeding on warm moist air, rise up as they rotate around the center of the cyclone, which can create a circular wall of clouds. Inside exists a calm, relatively clear eye.
Flights in and around Teddy began Wednesday, as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers measured the storm’s wind speed and took other observations. The hurricane — forecast to hit somewhere in the Nova Scotia region next week — is one of a record-breaking number of tropical storms that have formed by this date in the Atlantic this year.
2020 is currently on pace to break 2005’s total record for most named storms in a year (tropical storms, which are organized cyclones with winds speeds of at least 39 mph, earn a name.) So far, 21 named storms have formed this year, stoked by warm ocean temperatures and diminished hurricane-shredding winds. This storm season paces well ahead of 2005 when the 21st named storm didn’t form until Oct.8. This means scientists have now exhausted the 21 storm names designated for 2020, so they’ll use Greek letters like Alpha, Beta, and Gamma for this year’s remaining cyclones. It’s been an exceptionally active year.
“The number of storms is extraordinary,” Falko Judt, a research meteorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Mashable on Monday as five cyclones spun in the Atlantic.
You know that scene in Titanic where Rose throws the necklace back into the ocean? This is like that but also there’s a hurricane eye and a @USAFReserve aircraft and science.
Here are some highlights from our flight into Hurricane #Teddy today. pic.twitter.com/wpUlrqqGh9
— Hurricane Hunters (@53rdWRS) September 18, 2020
Importantly, though powerful Hurricane Laura did pummel the Gulf Coast, most storms this season have been short-lived and relatively weak. Yet even a lower-grade storm like Isaias can cause billions of dollars in damage.
In the coming years and decades, atmospheric scientists don’t expect more hurricanes overall, but they do expect the strongest storms to grow stronger. Hurricanes derive their energy from warm ocean waters, as warmer water naturally evaporates into the air, giving storms more energy and moisture to intensify. Crucially, the oceans are heating up. The seas soak up over 90 percent of the warmth created by human-caused climate change. The ocean’s surface has warmed significantly by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1 degree Celsius, since 1900.
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