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Where Hurricanes Are Born

Hurricane Winds

Hurricane Katrina demonstrated just how destructive wind and water can be. New research into the genesis of these powerful storms could help coastal communities prepare for tomorrow's hurricanes.

We know what direction they'll go, how big they'll become, and how fast their winds will be. But far less is known about how they're born.

Hurricanes often get their start off the west coast of Africa, where some of the most dangerous U.S. storms first develop. The winds form between 65 and 75 thousand feet above sea level, well above altitudes where hunter aircraft can detect hurricane-forming winds.

So scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research are using weather balloons to study these hurricane nurseries. Twice a day, the balloons release parachutes that carry "driftsonds," instruments that measure weather conditions and relay the data back to researchers via satellite. They drift through the source of new hurricanes at their earliest stages, collecting data that help predict which winds become stormsand which don not.

Hurricanes exact an enormous financial and human toll. The new research on how these powerful storms develop could help coastal communities better predict and prepare for them.

Script by Andrew Porterfield
Copyright 2008, Catalina Island Conservancy

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