Are there hurricanes in South America?


Hurrricane Irma
NBC 6 South Florida

Since September 4th, the name Irma stole the thunder, literally. Considered the most powerful Category 5 hurricane recorded in the history of the North Atlantic Ocean–with sustained winds of 187 mph–Irma crossed the islands of the Caribbean and the state of Florida as if it were a lawn mower leaving in its path nothing but destruction and heartbreak.

The aftermath of the hurricane was catastrophic. More than 50 victims, 15 million people without electricity and billions of dollars in property damage.

Each year, the most active months of the hurricane season–which goes from June 1st to November 30–are August and September. On August 9th, the National Oceanic and for Atmospheric Administration published the forecast for 2017 which highlighted an increase of 60% in the annual activity.

According to the report, in the first nine weeks of this season, six storms had already be named which accounted for half the average recorded in a six months period. With all this information in mind, I wondered why there are never events of hurricanes in South America?

After some research, I found very interesting differences. First, in the South Atlantic Ocean these climatology systems are called tropical cyclones instead of hurricanes. Second, the winds of the tropical cyclones twist clockwise in contrast with hurricanes which twist counter clock wise. And last, tropical cyclones hardly ever reach the wind speed of a category 1 hurricane.

Since 1588, only 43 tropical cyclones have been recorded and they have mostly landed in in Venezuela, Colombia, and Trinidad. However, on March 26th, 2004, the southeast of Brazil became an unusual target for a category 1 hurricane named Catarina which claimed three lives and over 40,000 properties. The sustained winds of this storm reached 75 mph.

The history log of this meteorology event was enriched by the first hand account of the crew on board of the Cheyenne, a catamaran that left France on February 7th, 2004 on its record-breaking round-the-world trip on a sail boat. Prepared for everything, the 13 member crew could have never imagined that they would sail in the same waters where Hurricane Catarina started forming on March 22nd.

The meteorologist from the Goddard Space Flight Center at NASA, Marshall Shepherd, provided a very simple explanation about the rarity of Catarina in an article published by the Earth Observatory from NASA on April 2005 about Cheyenne’s amazing journey.

According to Shepherd, hurricanes require a perfect mix of conditions. Waters must be warm, wind shear must be low, and a disturbance, such as thunderstorms, must jump-start storm formation. “The shear component is particularly detrimental,” says Shepherd. “If the wind increases too quickly with altitude or changes direction, the hurricane is torn apart before it can organize.” With its cooler waters, frequent wind shear, and lack of seedling thunderstorms, the South Atlantic is not a hospitable place for hurricanes to form.

In conclusion, I am just glad my home country and its neighbors are not in the radar of this type of natural disaster. God knows we have so many others in abundance!

Hurricanes in Florida test the residents in every way. Simple activities such as pumping gas or buying water become a scavenger hunt, and some store owners surrendered to greed, placing outrageous price tags to basic needs items.

From my part, our house survived another hurricane, this time at least I was prepared and had sedatives for my dogs–I didn’t have a battery operated radio though!–and the only damage to my sanity was the closure of the county’s schools since last Thursday.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Xiomara Spadafora.

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119


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