Understanding the Phenomenon of Rapid Intensification in Hurricanes: Exploring the Case of Hurricane Lee and its Implications for Future Storms

2023-09-08 20:17:00
Published on September 8, 2023 at 4:17 p.m.

Updated September 8, 2023 at 7:15 p.m.

Hurricanes are complex systems that can evolve very quickly under certain conditions. Explanation.

Lee, most powerful hurricane of the year

Late Wednesday evening, a tropical storm that was moving in the Atlantic Ocean became a Category 1 hurricane. Twenty-four hours later, the one we call Lee rose to Category 5, and also became a Category 1 hurricane. hit the most powerful hurricane of the year.

Within a day, winds of 130 km/h reached 260 km/h. The speed with which this tropical system developed is remarkable: we are talking here about rapid intensification.

Good to know: According to NOAA, rapid intensification means an increase in sustained winds of 55 km/h or more in 24 hours.

What allows a hurricane to intensify in just a few hours?

You need to know one thing: tropical systems, although impressive and complex, are also very fragile. Each hurricane is born from a small storm and needs very specific conditions in order to complete its development. They mainly feed on heat, humidity and instability. If in addition, there is little wind shear aloft, humidity and high surface temperatures, then the ingredients are there. A hurricane could intensify quickly and persist for several days.

A phenomenon that could become less and less rare

Since the start of the summer season, the surface waters of most of the world’s oceans have reached record temperatures. The sector of the Atlantic above which Lee was formed is also abnormally hot: 30 degrees are recorded on the surface.

Although the most powerful, Lee is not the only hurricane to have developed so quickly. This year alone, Jova and Idalia, two hurricanes in the Pacific and Atlantic basins respectively, have also experienced rapid intensification. At this rate, this scenario could become more and more recurring.

With the collaboration of Alexandra Giroux, meteorologist.

SEE ALSO: Lee becomes a Category 5 hurricane

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