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Cyclone

a system of winds rotating inward to an area of low atmospheric pressure, with a


counterclockwise (northern hemisphere) or clockwise (southern hemisphere) circulation; a
depression.
another term for tropical storm.

Tropical Cyclone Structure


The Eye

The hurricane's center is a relatively calm, generally clear area of sinking air and light winds that
usually do not exceed 15 mph (24 km/h) and is typically 20-40 miles (32-64 km) across. An eye
will usually develop when the maximum sustained wind speeds go above 74 mph (119 km/h) and
is the calmest part of the storm.

The Eyewall

Where the strong wind gets as close as it can is the eyewall. The eyewall consists of a ring of tall
thunderstorms that produce heavy rains and usually the strongest winds. Changes in the
structure of the eye and eyewall can cause changes in the wind speed, which is an indicator of
the storm's intensity. The eye can grow or shrink in size, and double (concentric) eyewalls can
form.

Rainbands

Curved bands of clouds and thunderstorms that trail away from the eye wall in a spiral fashion.
These bands are capable of producing heavy bursts of rain and wind, as well as tornadoes. There
are sometimes gaps in between spiral rain bands where no rain or wind is found.
In fact, if one were to travel between the outer edge of a hurricane to its center, one would
normally progress from light rain and wind, to dry and weak breeze, then back to increasingly
heavier rainfall and stronger wind, over and over again with each period of rainfall and wind
being more intense and lasting longer. View a radar loop of Hurricane Katrina as it moved onto
the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts in August 2005. (Very large loop - 140 images (13 meg.)may take a while depending upon your connection.)

How do tropical cyclones form?

In the tropics there is a broad zone of low pressure which stretches either side of the equator.
The winds on the north side of this zone blow from the north-east (the north-east trades) and on
the southern side blow from the south-east (south-east trades).
Within this area of low pressure the air is heated over the warm tropical ocean. This air rises in
discrete parcels, causing thundery showers to form. These showers usually come and go, but
from time to time, they group together into large clusters of thunderstorms. This creates a flow
of very warm, moist, rapidly rising air, leading to the development of a centre of low pressure, or
depression, at the surface.
There are various trigger mechanisms required to transform these cloud clusters into a tropical
cyclone. These trigger mechanisms depend on several conditions being 'right' at the same time.
The most influential factors are:
a source of warm, moist air derived from tropical oceans with sea surface temperatures
normally in the region of, or in excess, of 27 C;
winds near the ocean surface blowing from different directions converging and causing air
to rise and storm clouds to form;
winds which do not vary greatly with height - known as low wind shear. This allows the
storm clouds to rise vertically to high levels;
sufficient distance from the equator to provide spin or twist.