Dang, those butterflies over on the west coast of Africa sure have been busy of late….
Just consider Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria…not to mention all the other named tropical storms that have cropped up in the Atlantic Ocean this hurricane season. Those African butterflies just need to stop what they’re doing, cause we’re getting a little bit tired of our prime nautical stomping grounds getting hammered by these storms.
Now, some of you might be thinking, what in the hell are those folks from Getting Nauti on about now?
Painted Lady Butterfly
What we’re referring to is a concept under chaos theory—the science of surprises of the nonlinear and unpredictable—known as the Butterfly Effect, which posits that the air stirred up by a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa’s Sahara Dessert can evolve into a hurricane if given the right timing and conditions. Dunno, but maybe we need to send some crop dusters over there….
But bear with us as we take a closer examination of the hurricane, because it happens to be one of the most powerful things in nature, and definitely has a close connection to all things nautical. Of course, should you be happening to be engaged in nautical-minded pursuits, the last thing you want to do is run into a hurricane…or vice versa. Especially when you consider that a large hurricane can release the energy equivalent of 10 atomic bomb blasts every second.
Whoa! Amazing what a little ol’ butterfly can do….
Anyhow, the hurricane that we are familiar with is just another name for a natural phenomenon known as a tropical cyclone. Tropical, because they are formed over warm bodies of water, and “cyclone,” because of the circular direction of their winds. Tropical cyclones are referred to as “hurricanes” in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, “typhoons” in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and as “cyclones” in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The only noticeable difference between them is that hurricane and typhoon winds (northern hemisphere) blow in a counterclockwise motion while cyclone winds (southern hemisphere) blow in a clockwise motion. These opposing directions of circulation are caused by the Coriolis effect, which is some physics law pertaining to inertia, and also responsible for the opposing directions of flushed toilet water seen between the two hemispheres*.
A hurricane views from space
Essentially the air stirred up by that butterfly wing flap starts generating its own energy through evaporation of water from the ocean surface, the energy being formed by the warm moist air cooling as it rises. Given time and no interference from other atmospheric conditions, like a wind shear from a different butterfly’s wing, and the energy will keep getting stronger and eventually create all the components that make up this Frankenstein of storms.
And they are monsters. 1999’s Hurricane Floyd, a Category 2 storm when it made landfall in North Carolina, managed to mow down 19 million trees and cause more than $1 billion in damages along the U.S. east coast. Of course, our hurricanes don’t have anything over the ones that form on the planet Jupiter. There’s one on that planet bigger than our earth that has been spinning around for 300 years. Seen by telescope as a red dot, It’s the most noticeable feature on the planet. Earth’s most monstrous hurricane depends upon how its being classified—that is whether size, duration, wind speed, barometric pressure, cost of damages, lives lost, ships lost, etc.
Hurricane Floyd Devastation
2015’s Cyclone Patricia, in the eastern Pacific, has the distinction of holding the lowest barometric pressure (872 hPa) recorded and highest known sustained wind speeds (215 m.p.h.). While not as powerful, this year’s Hurricane irma has taken over or matched several records in the Atlantic, including sustained wind speeds (185 m.p.h.), duration of sustained wind speeds (37 hours), sustained status as a Category 5 storm (3.25 days); and, sustained status as a major hurricane (tied with 1932’s Hurricane Cuba at 8.5 days). Hurricane Katrina had the distinction of being the costliest hurricane ever, though the dollar damages may be topped by the recent Harvey.
Locals Let Irma Know How They Feel
Given their monstrous nature, why don’t we give them monstrous names, you ask?
Well, naming hurricanes is relatively new, and only initiated in 1950 when they started naming them after the U.S. military’s phonetic alphabet. This didn’t go over so well when they got to “Hurricane Love” and “Hurricane Easy,” the latter being the worst to hit the Florida keys in 70 years. Of course, with only 26 phonetic names, they ran out that roster and started naming them after women, because of hurricanes’ “unpredictable” and “temperamental” nature. That naming regime worked fine in the 1950s and ‘60s, but wasn’t going to survive feminism, so male names were added starting in 1978.
And what about any Getting Nauti hurricane related apparel?
Well, that’s a tough one because while we respect the natural power of hurricanes, it’s kind of difficult to celebrate them given the damage and harm they do. Thus, I wouldn’t hold your breath, though if something were to come to mind that would not belittle the impact hurricanes have on us, we might consider it.
* Yes, we know the toilet water flowing in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere is an old wives tale…we just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.