The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) captured an image of five tropical cyclones swirling in the Atlantic basin, all at once. The white spiraling winds of the cyclones resemble the star peppered sky of Van Gogh’s Starry Night against an ocean backdrop. The satellite caught Tropical Depression Rene, Tropical Storms Vicky and Teddy, and Hurricanes Paulette and Sally; a record number of cyclones in one basin at the same time. Cyclones are characterized as winds that rotate inwardly and down towards an area of low atmospheric pressure. A tropical cyclone, like the ones curling in on themselves in the Atlantic basin, are rotating low-pressure weather systems with thunderstorms but no fronts.
Hurricane Sally is turning toward Mississippi and Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center expects Sally to inflict historic flash flooding as well as life threatening flash flooding. The satellite images also captured smoke swirling toward the east coast, carried away from the wildfires in California, Washington, and Oregon. Experts are attributing the scope of the active hurricane season to climate change.
Warmer air and water temperatures act as fuel for hurricanes; making them stronger.
Tropical cyclones derive power from warm water. The ocean is absorbing more heat than it should, making it a greenhouse for everything below the waterline and creating monsters above it. When ocean temperatures reach a high (about 80°F at least) some of the warm water evaporates. The moisture rises like a balloon and releases energy to create thunderstorms.
As more thunderstorms form, winds begin to spiral upward and outward, creating a vortex effect. White cotton ball clouds gather in the upper atmosphere as the warm air condenses; collectively, this creates a huge storm. The thunderstorms, clouds, and moisture all blend together like a bizarre blend of strong coffee. A category 1 hurricane is born when wind speeds reach 74 mph. This is what creates the white swirling blotches over the Atlantic basin, resembling microfoam poured over expresso, but with much higher stakes.
The warmer air retains more atmospheric water vapor, which enables tropical storms to draw in more strength and unleash heavier precipitation. The high-water temperatures can lead to sea-level rise, resulting in increased risks of flooding during high tide, putting lives on land at risk.
The five spinning cyclone beasts hovering above the Atlantic basin may seem harmless from afar, but really, our world is entering the eye of a storm.