The science of hurricanes: an interview with Mrs. Whalen

AP Environmental Science teacher, Mrs. Whalen, talks about the science of hurricanes.

Skylar Smith, Business Manager

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

With devastating hurricanes such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, it is evident that hurricane season is sweeping its way across the globe. Most Xavier students know that hurricanes cause calamitous effects on the areas in their paths, but not many understand the science behind these storms. Ms. Patrice Whalen, the AP Environmental Science teacher here at Xavier, explains the intricate science of hurricanes below.


What exactly is a hurricane season? When does it typically begin & end?

       It usually goes from July to September, mainly because this is when the water is warmer.


How does a hurricane occur?

       It occurs when there is low pressure in the air, and it begins to spin in a counterclockwise direction that creates a spiral. As winds blow into it, these winds feed it. When the water is warm, it’s drawn up from below, which intensifies it. The hurricane keeps moving from there. Basically, the winds above and the warm water below intensifies the storm as it moves.


What are the different categories of hurricanes & how are they defined?

       The categories range from 1 to 5 based on the hurricane’s intensity. As a hurricane travels across the water, it intensifies. Once the hurricane reaches land, it’s usually pretty big and destructive due to its increasing of power as it travels over the ocean. A lot of buildings can either stop it or increase it. The intensity of it is determined by things like temperature, humidity, and wind speed. To determine these, scientists don’t just measure these from the air, but they also fly a plane into the hurricane and send out a measuring instrument with a parachute that goes into the water. So, not only are scientists testing the air, but they’re also testing the water.


What is the eye of a hurricane?

       The eye of the hurricane is the calm point. This is because winds are going around it in a spiral, but the eye is in the center so nothing is happening.


Do you have any other interesting facts about hurricanes?

       There has been so much damage done during these last couple of hurricanes because there’s so much more for the hurricanes to destroy. Even 10 years ago, there weren’t as many buildings, people, and things in the hurricane’s way.