The «hypercan» thesis, the mother of all hurricanes

Tropical storms that end up arriving as hurricanes to the Caribbean and the United States appear in Cape Verde, off the coast of Africa. The process begins with a slight disturbance of the air leaving the African continent and reaching the ocean pushed by the trade winds, which blow from east to west. In the tropical Atlantic region, hot water feeds disturbance into a storm.

As it travels through the ocean it intensifies, becoming a hurricane. The category that it can reach, between 1 and 5, will depend on certain ingredients such as shear, the winds that blow in height. If they are loose, the low pressure system will be able to grow without anything preventing it. But above all it is influenced by the temperature of the water, which generates a lot of evaporation, the fuel for these giants of the atmosphere. Hurricanes need waters with a temperature around 26 degrees. In the area of ​​the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, where the warmest waters are concentrated, it is precisely where a hurricane usually reaches category 5.

The case of Patricia that in 2015 was formed in the eastern Pacific and generated winds of 345 kilometers per hour opened a debate on the need to increase the Saffir-Simpson scale, which measures the intensity. But even a hypothetical Category 6 hurricane would be insignificant compared to a “hyperkale”, a hypothetical kind of cyclone that could form if the sea temperature reached 50 degrees, an increase that could be caused by an asteroid impact, a comet and also by a volcanic eruption.

According to the American climatologist, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these types of hurricanes contributed to the disappearance of the dinosaurs. His hypothesis holds that “hyperkans” would inject huge amounts of water vapor and dust into the stratosphere, altering the global climate and destroying the ozone layer. His computer model describes an atmospheric beast capable of losing 300 millibars of pressure in 40 hours.

The expert himself acknowledges that it is difficult to predict whether the effect would be warming or cooling. However, he adds that the greatest damage would be on the ozone layer. The ultraviolet radiation from the Sun would act on stratospheric water droplets to form compounds such as hydroxyl that, together with the chlorine in salt water that would inject the “hypercan”, could destroy large amounts of stratospheric ozone, something that would be lethal to living beings.

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