👀 The Context
“All tropical cyclones, including hurricanes, develop in the same way. The ocean needs to be at least 26.5 degrees Celsius for a hurricane to form. When wind blows across the warm ocean water, the warm, moist air rapidly rises. As it rises, the moist air cools and the water in it condenses into large storm clouds. The cooling water also releases a lot of heat. This heat transfer creates enough energy to cause strong winds.
These winds push even more warm air up from the ocean surface. More clouds and more wind make the storm more intense. Rapidly moving air creates an area of low pressure at the centre of the hurricane. This is called the “eye of the storm.” It’s usually very calm. However, the area around the eye has the most violent winds.”Source: Let’s talk science
Early in September of 2021, the storm named Ida hit Louisiana, 10 years, almost to the day, after the state was hit by Katrina. Ida then followed the east coast heading north and hit the city of New York, partly flooding it with torrential rains.
At the end of September 2022, Ian wreaked havoc on the west coast of Florida, a few days only after Fiona hit the Maritime Provinces in Canada, causing significant damages.
Experts at NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, explain that climate change is a factor in hurricane intensification because warmer ocean water fuels stronger storms. “Warming sea-surface temperatures are playing a role, since they provide fuel for hurricanes, which also rely on a moist and unstable atmosphere — all of which are becoming more conducive for strengthening hurricanes in our changing climate,” Knabb said. “Hurricanes appear to be peaking in strength a bit higher than they used to, and they seem to be intensifying at a rapid rate a bit more frequently. We do not appear to be seeing more tropical storms and hurricanes overall, but the proportion of storms that become majors and that peak a bit stronger appears to be what is increasing.”Source: CBC News
In August of 2019, Dorian hit the Caribbean and affected more specifically the Bahamas:
“Dorian is also the most powerful storm to ever hit the Bahamas directly […] All that power has had dramatic consequences in the Bahamas. At least five people have died there, reportedly including an 8-year-old boy. The Red Cross said that as many as 13,000 homes might have been destroyed. Once search-and-rescue teams can venture out and anecdotal reports can be confirmed, the official death toll and damage report are likely to rise.”Source: The Atlantic
In August of 2020, the hurricane named Laura was responsible for at least 14 deaths in the south of the United States, but fewer damages than predicted, based on its strength. Shortly before, Laura was in the Caribbean Sea and caused massive damages in Haiti and Dominican Republic. At least 35 people died in those two countries.
The images of such natural disasters, broadcast on various media, are always spectacular. But more often than not, viewers move on quickly to something else when it is over. However, for the victims, the consequences of this type of event last for months and years.
Before we start, here is the map of hurricane tracks that might impact Canada in the next few days. It might show a few active hurricane over the fall season.
At the end of this activity, students will be able to better understand how hurricanes are created, but also reflect upon the challenges faced by the populations that face such catastrophes.
Activities by: Maxime Laflamme and Audrey Miller, in collaboration with Valerie Harnois and Karine Turcotte.