Q:

How do hurricanes affect the environment?

A:

Quick Answer

Hurricanes can devastate wooded ecosystems and remove all the foliation from forest canopies, and they can change habitats so drastically that the indigenous animal populations suffer as a result. Endangered species in tropical, estuarine and coastal habitats are particularly at risk when hurricanes strike.

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Full Answer

The winds from hurricanes deliver the most visible environmental impact. Flying over a rainforest after a hurricane often reveals that the canopy layer is completely gone, which impacts the lives of birds and animals that had formerly used the area directly beneath that canopy as their habitat. Wooded areas, such as swamps and marshes, undergo significant destruction as winds uproot and demolish trees.

Storm surge and considerable rainfall combine with the strong winds to threaten the food supply that is available to remaining animals not killed by the storm. When Hurricane Hugo hit Puerto Rico in 1989, half of the remaining Puerto Rican parrots in the world died in the storm. The Cozumel Thrasher, which only lives on the Mexican island of Cozumel, almost became extinct after Hurricane Gilbert hit the island in 1988.

Hurricanes also change the shape of coastal landscapes by shifting huge amounts of sand. Hurricanes in 2004, 2005 and 2008 caused major shifts in the Gulf of Mexico's coast; between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which both hit in 2005, about 73 square miles of land were lost to the sea.

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Related Questions

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    Why do we have hurricanes?

    A:

    Hurricanes form over warm ocean water when the air is cooler above. Winds must be at the surface of the ocean and spiral air inward for the hurricane to form.

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  • Q:

    How big are hurricanes?

    A:

    On average, a hurricane measures 100 miles in diameter. The eye of the average-sized hurricane measures 30 miles in diameter. A hurricane is measured using the diameter of the hurricane and the wind speeds that it reaches.

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  • Q:

    What state has the most hurricanes?

    A:

    Florida has the most hurricane landfalls in the United States, with 110 accumulating from 1851 to 2004. Texas is second with 59 over the same span of time, and Louisiana is third with 49. North Carolina is fourth with 46 landfall strikes.

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  • Q:

    How often do hurricanes occur?

    A:

    According to NASA, approximately 85 hurricanes occur worldwide each year. Not all of these hurricanes are devastating; some of them appear to be ordinary storms for the most part and only develop into official hurricanes for a few short hours, whereas others can be considered full-force hurricanes for several weeks. In order to be considered an official hurricane, in addition to having an eye with low atmospheric pressure, the circulating wind speeds should exceed 74 miles per hour.

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