31 Cyclones


For those who have lived through a hurricane or tornado, you know what these storms can be like firsthand. The devastation from a direct-strike major hurricane can literally erase a city like a huge pencil eraser. Large tornadoes can and have had similar effects. But imagine a cyclone twice the size of Earth that has been going for at least 300 years!

Hurricane Katrina as photographed from Earth orbit.
Hurricane Katrina as photographed from Earth orbit, August 2005. [” Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA ” by Jeff Schmaltz, in the Public Domain ]


Tropical cyclones like Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Matthew, and Irma show several distinctive characteristics:

  • Formation with favorable conditions over warm water, lack of wind shear and land
  • Rapidly-rotating storm with a low-pressure center
  • Strong winds, heavy rains, storm surges
  • Possible outer band spin-up tornadoes

Do tropical storms occur on other planets in our Solar System? Well, first the basis for Earth’s tropical cyclones is water; hot water. So, what we know as hurricanes are an Earth-based phenomenon.


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