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Do All Hurricanes Rotate The Same Way?

Posted by Jimmy Hawley on Jun 12, 2018 12:02:10 PM

If you live in an area that routinely experiences hurricanes, such as Southwest Florida, you probably know a lot about hurricane season and how to prepare for it.

That said, when newscasters and meteorologists discuss hurricanes on the news, they might use some unfamiliar terms. For example, they may talk about the difference between hurricanes in the northern and southern hemisphere, or why a hurricane that forms in a certain place will likely travel a certain path.

As we are creep closer to hurricane season, a deeper understanding of the inner workings of hurricanes can help you be better prepared in the event a hurricane is heading toward you.


Do All Hurricanes Rotate in the Same Direction?

You might wonder if all hurricanes rotate the same way. The answer is kind of complicated; it all depends on where the hurricane originates. All hurricanes in the northern hemisphere rotate counterclockwise, while hurricanes in the southern hemisphere rotate clockwise.

To be technical, hurricanes in the southern hemisphere are not called hurricanes, they are called cyclones. So it’s more accurate to say that all hurricanes rotate counterclockwise and all cyclones rotate clockwise!

Fun Fact: Hurricanes/cyclones have one more name in the eastern hemisphere— typhoons. Typhoons rotate clockwise and counterclockwise depending on whether they were formed in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

Why is there a Difference in Rotation Between Hemispheres?

The difference in rotation comes from a phenomenon known as the Coriolis Effect. This effect explains why fluids— like water and air— curve as they travel across the globe.

As you (probably) know, the Earth is a sphere that rotates from east to west on its axis. The points on the globe near the equator are moving much faster than the points north and south of the equator, because they have much further to go due to the fact that the Earth is larger in the middle.

Every hurricane has an area of low pressure in the center that’s known as the eye of the storm. The high pressure around the eye of the storm is trying to move toward to area of low pressure— that’s how air pressure works.

Thanks to the Coriolis Effect’s impact on air and water, the movement happens in a curved direction; the north goes to the right and the south goes to the left. This is why hurricanes rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and cyclones in the southern hemisphere rotate clockwise.

With this in mind, the Equator is the safest place for those concerned about dangerous storms. Hurricanes do not form or hit there because the Coriolis Effect has no power there.


Is one type of storm more powerful than the other?

Rotation of counterclockwise or clockwise do not have much effect on whether one storm is more powerful than the other. That said, hurricanes happen almost twice as often in the northern hemisphere as their counterparts in the southern hemisphere.

This has more to do with the conditions that are necessary for hurricanes and cyclones to form. These storms form when the ocean water is warm and the wind shears are low. The southern hemisphere’s waters are much colder than those in the northern hemisphere due to the vastness of the ocean and the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The winds in the Southern Hemisphere are much stronger thanks to the larger temperature gradient (or distance with temperature change). Strong winds prevent the formation of cyclones.

In terms of formation, wind shear and ocean temperature are the most favorable conditions for hurricanes and cyclones to form, but they don’t impact the rotation of hurricanes and cyclones. The rotation also does not have any impact on the power of these storm.

Importance of Preparation

In South Florida, the more you know about hurricanes, the better you will understand the emergency management officials, government officials, and meteorologists who issue warnings when the threat become significant. This knowledge will help you to know how to prepare.

Storm Solutions can help you start to prepare before a storm ever hits. Call Storm Solutions to talk to our customer service to learn more about protecting your property. Our expert teams can install:

  • Impact windows
  • Impact doors
  • Impact garage doors
  • Shutters
  • Hurricane screens
  • Folding glass walls
  • Glass linais

This and much more can be done to protect your property. Remember, when a hurricane is coming, the most important thing to protect is life. You protect your family and loved ones, we will protect your property.

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Topics: Hurricane Preparedness, Coriolis, Hurricane