How Does the Caribbean Spawn a Superstorm like Hurricane Sandy?

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    Hurricane Sandy begins its assault on the Mid-Atlantic region Monday (
    Tropical cyclones that develop in the Caribbean Sea are spawned in moist tropical air. Approximately every four to five days, a tropical wave of low pressure moves along with westerly winds. Some of these waves develop into tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.

    In developing tropical cyclones, air pressure drops at the surface of these storms. This low pressure attracts warm moist air from the ocean’s surface. The Coriolis force (A force that arises solely from the earth’s rotation) causes the resulting low-level winds to spiral in a counterclockwise direction around the center of the low in the Northern Hemisphere. (Winds swirl clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.)

    These pressure systems become enhanced by the The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which is the area encircling the earth near the equator where the northeast and southeast trade winds come together.

    Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) Photo:
    You will see the band of clouds in the images, this band spreads crosses Costa Rica and Panama, hence Costa Rica’s famous dynamic weather.

    Another way to visualize a hurricane is as a large heat engine and the fuel is moisture from warm Caribbean waters, then moisture is converted to heat in the thunderstorms that form. Rain bands that surround the tropical cyclone’s in rings help feed the circulation more energy.

    Once the storm moves northward to approximately 25 or 30 degrees latitude (the top of Florida is at latitude 30 degrees), the trade winds are no longer a factor, and local weather over the United States has a big influence.

    Winds along the East Coast tend to blow in a north or northeast direction, and there is also the eastward-blowing jet stream. These winds often cause a storm that comes in from the west and appears to track right up the East Coast.

    Hurricane Sandy merges with cold front
    So how does this become a “superstorm” like Hurricane Sandy? Tropical depression Sandy, started forming in the Caribbean of the coast of Costa Rica, it gathers energy as it slowly crawls (gaining mass) its way Northward, mix in one cold front from Canada – this collision of energy, and Sandy’s slow moving trajectory creates the large scale weather event called a “superstorm”.

    The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
    San Jose Costa Rica


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