Hurricanes Can Expend Massive Energy Equivalent to 10,000 Nuclear Bombs

Photo credit: NASA
Hurricane Irma as seen from the International Space Station. Image via NASA.

Large tropical cyclones spin at incredibly high velocities during which they expend and release a tremendous amount of energy. This depends on a number of factors such as size, movement and strength of the cyclone. It also depends on the maturity of the hurricane and whether this energy is released by its winds or during cloud/rain formation.

Energy generated from winds

According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, the amount of energy released by the winds of a typical mature hurricane would be equivalent to 1.5 x 10^12 Watts or 1.3 x 10^17 Joules/day. In other words, a single hurricane could release about half of the total electrical-generating capacity on the planet!

Energy released through clouds/rain formation

An average hurricane produces about 1.5 cm/day (0.6 inches/day) of rain inside a circle of radius 665 km (360 n.mi). The amount of energy required to evaporate all that water is massive (6.0 x 10^14 Watts or 5.2 x 10^19 Joules/day), which is equivalent to about 200 times the world-wide electrical generating capacity!

10,000 nuclear bombs

According to NASA, an average hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs during its life cycle. This amount of energy could be more destructive if it is all unleashed at the same time, buy luckily “the life cycle of tropical cyclones (from tropical depression to tropical storm to hurricane to death) can last for two days or for as long as a month.” So, this energy is distributed throughout different events until the death of hurricane.

To put it into perspective, an average hurricane would have a wind speed of 119 km/h (74 mph) and a diameter of 160 km (100 mi). And this is just Category 1 on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS). This means hurricanes from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th categories, which have higher wind speeds, could expend energy that is equivalent to more than just 10,000 bombs! That’s a lot of energy! You can learn more about these categories here.

Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS).

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Uwitonze Nassim
Uwitonze Nassim
2 months 11 days ago

Aww, Thank you for this new