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The satellite pictures were a startling sight. As Hurricane Irma barreled toward Florida last week and Hurricane Katia hammered the Mexican coast, Hurricane Jose was waiting in the wings. All at once, three storms gathered strength and grew fiercer.
Seeing a trio of powerful hurricanes simultaneously made a lot of people wonder: Just how many hurricanes can the Atlantic harbor at once?
Answer - Dr - Anand - Gnanadesikan - Climate
To try to find an answer, we asked Dr. Anand Gnanadesikan, a climate modeler and professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. According to Gnanadesikan, the number of storms in the Atlantic depends on two main factors. The first is whether or not conditions are favorable to the development of tropical cyclones.
"The Atlantic has to be in a certain 'state' to allow for hurricane formation. One key appears to be the difference between surface air temperatures and air temperatures much higher up at the top of the troposphere at altitudes where thunderclouds smooth out into anvils. Surface air temperatures are set by the local water temperatures. Upper tropospheric temperatures are more set by the rest of the tropics. So when the surface is warm locally, but the tropics are colder, you can get more tropical cyclones."
Thing - Spark— - Seed - Storms - Circumstances
The second thing you need is a spark—"seed" storms that, under the right circumstances, are supercharged into hurricanes. These low-pressure systems sometimes self-organize; other times hurricanes-to-be trace their roots eastward to Africa. They generally form a few thousand kilometers apart, which means there's limited space. Gnanadesikan says: "So a question one could ask is, 'How many seeds might one find in the Atlantic and how likely is it that they will all grow?'"
Using NOAA's HURDAT2 database, which contains data from as far back as 1851, Gnanadesikan found that any time one tropical cyclone is present in the Atlantic,...
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