The fury of Hurricane Matthew: What makes storms so vehement?

NASA reported that Matthew briefly reached Category 5 hurricane status — with winds exceeding 157 mph (252 km/h) — on October 1. It dropped to Category 4 strength soon after, with maximum sustained winds calculated at a still-dizzying 140 mph (225 km/h) on October 3.

Last Updated: Oct 05, 2016, 12:45 PM IST
The fury of Hurricane Matthew: What makes storms so vehement?
Image courtesy: YouTube

New Delhi: The wrath of nature is incalculable when it decides to descend upon us. The biggest example at the moement is Hurricane Matthew, which is causing intense devastation across the southwestern tip of Haiti and Cuba and is probably moving toward the US east coast.

As of today, eleven deaths have been reported in Haiti owing to the disaster, as per the Chicago Tribune.

American space agency NASA has been diligently monitoring the hurricane and constantly tracking its movements, the intensity of which has earned it the 13th position in the list of the storms in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season. It has also been named the most powerful storm since Hurricane Felix in 2007.

NASA reported that Matthew briefly reached Category 5 hurricane status — with winds exceeding 157 mph (252 km/h) — on October 1. It dropped to Category 4 strength soon after, with maximum sustained winds calculated at a still-dizzying 140 mph (225 km/h) on October 3.

But what exactly is contributing to its beastly nature and how did it cross these levels of intensity?

Storms like these are a rare occurrence in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and for hurricanes to match up to Matthew's vengeful magnitude, several conditions must be met, Live Science reported, quoting Chris Lancey, a science and operations officer at the NHC.

“There are several key "ingredients" in the recipe for a powerful hurricane. The first requirement is warm ocean water — "the warmer the better. And it can't just be a shallow layer at the ocean surface,” Lancey told Live Science.

 

The energy is provided by warm water that fuels a growing tropical storm — as the temperature of the water rises, the more energy the storm has to tap into, and the faster its winds can blow.

A hurricane also feeds off moist air and the direction and speed of winds to build up its strength. As Lancey explained, while hurricanes form in the tropics — where moist air is generally abundant — dry air originating over Africa and western Europe frequently finds its way into hurricanes and weakens them.

However, according to Live Science, much of the damage Matthew is expected to inflict on Haiti, in particular, will not be due to the high wind speeds, but rather a staggering amount of rainfall, with forecasts predicting 15 to 25 inches (38 to 64 centimeters) over the next few days.

NASA also released a time-lapse video taken from the International Space Station that shows how potent Matthew looks even from space. Check it out below!

(Video courtesy: NASA Johnson)