Below is repeated a section on hurricane formation and dissipation. Please reread the section. You should now better understand the material, especially the material relating to phase changes of water, stability of the atmosphere, and vertical wind shear. After that is a new section that describes some of the basic aspects of hurricane strengthening.
The formation of tropical cyclones is still a topic of intense research and is not fully understood, although research has shown that certain factors must be present for cyclones to intensify to hurricane strength.
Hurricanes form over tropical waters where the winds are light, the humidity is high in a deep layer, and the surface water temperature is warm, typically 26.5°C (80°F) or greater, over a vast area. Moreover, the warm surface water must extend downward to a depth about 200 m (600 ft) before hurricane formation is possible.
Hurricanes are powered by the latent heat energy released from condensation. To form and develop they must be supplied with a constant supply of warm humid air for this process. Surface air with enough energy to generate a hurricane only exists over oceans with a temperature greater than 26.5°C. Moreover, the atmosphere above a developing storm must be unstable, i.e., the temperature must decrease rapidly with increasing altitude. This is condusive to thunderstorm formation in general.
Hurricanes cannot develop on or very near the Equator. In fact they do not form in the region within 4° latitude either side of the equator. Within this region Coriolis force is negligible. Coriolis force is required for the initiation of rotation. In fact it is relatively rare for hurricanes to form within 10° of latitude from the Equator.
Finally, hurricanes will not form if there is significant wind shear, which is a change in wind velocity and/or direction with increasing altitude
Hurricanes grow stronger as long as the air aloft moves outward away from the storm center more quickly than the surface air moves in toward the center. They dissipate rapidly when they move over colder water or over a large landmass as these conditions cut-off the supply of warm, humid air. Hurricanes will also weaken if they move into an area that has strong vertical wind shear.
Below is a summary list of five requirements for tropical storm development and intensification.
In this section, the energetics of how tropical cyclones intensify to become hurricanes is discussed using a simple process diagram. When conditions are just right, tropical storms intensify via a positive feedback loop. Before looking at the process diagram, there are a couple of pieces of background material to review. One concerns the relationship between horizontal convergence and divergence of air flow and forced rising and sinking motion, which is described in this scanned version of dynamical forcing handout. The important concepts are that converging air at surface and diverging air near the top of the tropopause both force rising vertical air motion. Additionally, let's review the relationship between the air temperature in a vertical column of air the rate of pressure decrease with height in that column (See Figure M). Remember air pressure must decrease as you move upward. The rate at which pressure decreases (for example pressure drop per 1000 meters of moving upward) is smaller in warm air (warm core of a hurricane for example) compared with colder air.
We should now have enough background knowledge to understand the figure below and the basic description of some of the energetics of hurricane strengthening beneath the figure
This is a simplified sequence describing some of the energetics involved in hurricane strengthening. The numbers in the diagram above correspond with the steps listed.
This simplified positive feedback cycle cannot continue indefinitely. Strong hurricanes tend to go through cycles of intensification and weakening during their lifetimes. The figure below shows a more realistic look at anatomy of a hurricane. As opposed to the simple explanation for intensification which only showed a central updraft, real hurricanes have banded structures of rising and sinking motion.