Must-Know Hurricane Terms

Officials at the National Hurricane Center and other meteorologists shared their stash of must-know terms during hurricane season:

Barometric pressure: The weight of the column of air that extends from the ground (or water’s surface) to the top of the atmosphere. It is also called air pressure. Air pressure is measured by a barometer. The barometric pressure is very low in a hurricane.
Cone of uncertainty: Sometimes called cone of probability, this is a storm path’s margin of error over five days. 
Eyewall: This is the area that circles the eye of the storm where the most violent and potentially damaging weather can be found.
Hurricane hunters: These are the P-3 Orion aircraft that fly into tropical storms and hurricanes to gather data such as wind speed for the National Hurricane Center. The information helps forecasters predict the storm’s path.
Hurricane watch: This means that hurricane conditions – winds of 74 mph or more and dangerously high water – are possible within 36 hours.
Hurricane warning: This means that a hurricane is expected in the warning area within 24 hours.
Outer bands: The rings of thunderstorms farthest away from the eye of a hurricane or tropical storm that are the first to come ashore during landfall.
Saffir-Simpson Scale: This is the scale that has the Category 1 through 5 hurricanes based on wind speed, with 5 the most severe. It’s named after two scientists who in 1969 created it – consulting engineer Herbert Saffir and National Hurricane Center director Dr. Bob Simpson.
Skinny black line: The line in the center of the cone considered to be the best path the storm will track in coming days. The line has come under criticism in recent years because people tend to see it as a foolproof track and may not take the threat as seriously if the line isn’t coming at them.
SLOSH models: SLOSH stands for Sea Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes. The models offer an estimate of how high the storm surge will be in a given area, depending on the strength of storm, topography of coast and depth of water.
Storm surge: A large “dome” of ocean or gulf water that can be 20 feet tall and 50 to 100 miles wide. It forms when winds from a storm push water ashore. It posed the highest threat for loss of human life during a storm.
The Gulf Stream: A western current in the Northern Atlantic that can often influence storms. The Gulf Stream carries warm water north and northeastward along the eastern coast of the United States.
Tropical cyclone: Generic term for hurricane, typhoon or tropical storm.
Tropical disturbance: A hurricane goes through many stages as it develops. As warm, moist air over the ocean rises in the low air pressure area, cold air from above replaces it. This produces strong gusty winds, heavy rain and thunderclouds or a tropical disturbance.
Tropical-storm-force winds: Any sustained winds that are 39 mph or greater.
Typhoon: Forecasters on The Weather Channel and other national stations may point out a typhoon on the weather map. A typhoon is the same thing as a hurricane, only it’s limited to the Indian and western Pacific oceans.
Wobble: A term used and often repeated by some meteorologists to describe how major hurricanes jog left or right from their projected path of travel.

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