After Harvey, What You Need To Know About Hurricane Season

Parts of Texas and other southern states are just beginning to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. With that in mind, it’s important to realize that there is still a lot of time left to this year’s hurricane season. Hurricane season in the U.S. generally runs from June 1 through November 30. And, with the 2017 season predicted to be a busy one, there may be more storms, even more big storms before it’s all over.

One place to keep an eye on, especially when looking for storms that may hit the U.S. coast, is the Cape Verde Islands. These islands, off the coast of West Africa, have been the source of many storms over the years. In fact, there have been so many hurricanes coming from the Cape Verde Islands that they are called “Cape Verde hurricanes.”

But, why do storms so often emanate from this area? Interestingly enough, it could be because of the Sahara Desert. The mix of the dry heat coming off of the Sahara combined with the more humid air from nearby areas of central Africa creates tropical waves. Once those tropical waves move westward into the Atlantic, they get mixed with warm ocean water (at least 81 degrees Fahrenheit). From there, the heat from the sun causes moisture to evaporate and rise, creating large clouds. Then, with the help of the earth’s rotation on its axis, winds cause those clouds to start rotating. In the Northern Hemisphere, the storm rotation is counterclockwise. Once the storm has started rotating, trade winds move it across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean Sea. And that trip across the Atlantic can be the start of a monster storm.

An average of two hurricanes a year are "Cape Verde hurricanes."
Many of the worst storms ever to hit the U.S. started near the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of west Africa.[Image by NOAA.gov]

According to NASA, “the average Atlantic Hurricane season brings with it approximately two Cape Verde hurricanes.” What sets these storms apart is the distance that they get to travel over warm water. Plus, there is little in the way of land masses to take the wind out of their sails. They can become huge. And, if they get to move into the Caribbean Sea and then the Gulf of Mexico, the recipe for disaster has been created.

Looking at the path that Harvey took and where he came from, it appears that he very well could have been a Cape Verde hurricane. If that is the case and this year is average, we may have one more coming before the season ends. Hopefully, the next one will stay far away from the U.S. coast.

The Cape Verde Islands are off the coast of West Africa.
This beach looks innocent, but history tells us that beaches like this one on the Cape Verde Islands may be the first to feel the soft breeze that later turns into a deadly hurricane. [Image by JMAV/Shutterstock]

[Featured Image by Jack Fischer- NASA/AP Images]