61ºF

Why we need hurricanes (Yes, you read that right)

Hurricanes are a critical part of Earth's water cycle

photo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricanes get a bad rap, and with good reason. They injure and kill people. They destroy property and coastlines. They inundate areas with incredible amounts of rain, compounded by storm surge near the coasts. And they disrupt travel plans.

Despite all of this, we need hurricanes.  Yes, we really do, because hurricanes are a critical part of Earth's water cycle.

During the summer, copious amounts of ocean water evaporate into the atmosphere. It's a well-known thermodynamic fact that warmer air can "hold" more water vapor than colder air, so all of that evaporation doesn't pose a problem in summer.

However, when we head into fall and we start seeing some cooling, that cooler atmosphere can't hold all of the water vapor that evaporated into it over the past few months. And hurricanes are Mother Nature's mechanism to return that water back into the oceans.

Ever wonder why hurricane season ramps up quickly August into September? Now you know.

Obviously, we can get hurricanes in early summer and late fall, but the vast majority of these storms occur from August to October. That's Mother Nature trying to restore some balance in the atmosphere, and the only problem is that we humans get in the way.

And by the way, as the planet warms and increasing amounts of water vapor evaporate into the atmosphere (which has already been documented), future hurricanes will have to dump even more water. Hurricane Harvey is the perfect example: it dropped a jaw-dropping 60 inches of rain on one part of Texas, and climate attribution studies have already determined that the storm's rain amounts were impacted by the warming climate.

So, the next time a hurricane threatens, you don't be happy about it but understand that it's a critical part of our planet's water cycle.