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Extreme Natural Disasters

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Extreme Natural Disasters features catastrophic volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and other extreme acts of nature. Inside you will find facts on the worst and deadliest of these events—including the scientific explanations behind them—and encounter stories of other amazing natural phenomena, from black blizzards to frogs raining from the sky.

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Overview

Extreme Natural Disasters features catastrophic volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and other extreme acts of nature. Inside you will find facts on the worst and deadliest of these events—including the scientific explanations behind them—and encounter stories of other amazing natural phenomena, from black blizzards to frogs raining from the sky.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060891435
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/1/2007
  • Series: Extreme Wonders Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Extreme Natural Disasters

Chapter One

Hurricanes

Hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons. These are all different names for the same type of storm—the biggest storms on Earth.

Even though tornadoes may clock higher winds, hurricanes are usually much deadlier, both because of their size—hurricane systems can reach 500 miles (805 km) across—and because of the amount of water they move.

Hurricanes cause devastation all over the world, but they are all born in the same latitudes—the tropics. This is where the main ingredients of a hurricane reside: warm oceans at 80° Fahrenheit (26.5°C) or more, warm air, light wind, and moisture in the atmosphere. Yet while all these ingredients exist for much of the summer in tropical climates, they do not always result in deadly storms. The catalyst needed for these conditions to become a hurricane is an atmospheric disturbance.

A tropical disturbance, or cluster of thunderstorms, might occur when a cold front skips down into the tropics and runs up against the walls of warm air. Or it may start with a low-pressure system spinning around the atmosphere and landing down near the water. Either way, when the conditions are right, the storm will start to get organized and spin into a tropical depression with a low-pressure system at the center.

From Disturbance to Storm

A tropical depression has winds circulating up to 38 miles per hour (61 km/h). As this potential hurricane sits over the warm tropical waters, the low-pressure zone in its center acts as a vacuum, pulling clouds toward it.

At the same time, the ocean is adding energyto the storm. Warm water changes into water vapor and rises off the ocean's surface. As the water vapor cools, it releases heat energy into the air. The heated air moves faster, pulling in more air and water around it. When winds reach between 39 and 73 miles per hour (63 and 117 km/h), the tropical depression becomes a tropical storm.

The water vapor that has cooled becomes water droplets. These collect into even bigger thunderclouds, and the storm grows. As the storm gets taller, it hits the stratosphere and flattens out at the top. As long as there is a supply of warm water, the system continues to grow stronger winds and bigger clouds. Once winds reach 74 miles per hour (119 km/h) or more, the storm is classified as a hurricane.

With so much wind, the storm system has to move. Most hurricanes just move around in the ocean until the water cools and the storm falls apart. Some may begin to disintegrate and then pick up speed again, as a new source of warm water appears. The storm will eventually die, once it either hits cold water or stays on dry land long enough. Without warm water as an energy source, the hurricane will dissipate.

These potent storms that go by many names are among the most destructive forces known, and the combination of this tempestuous force with civilization can lead to disaster.

Hurricane Hunting

Hurricane prediction and monitoring is a team sport. "Hurricane hunters" fly inside the storm to measure air pressure while satellites take measurements from the outside.

In the United States, personnel from the Air Force Reserves and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fly into the storm to take on-the-spot measurements. Knowing the internal pressure is key to knowing if the storm is building or dying out. The planes fly in low, at altitudes between 500 and 1,500 feet (152 and 457 m) and make the return trip at higher altitudes. Among other tasks, the hurricane hunters release a dropsonde, a weather-sensing canister, that radios back information about humidity, temperature, air pressure, and wind speed as it falls to the water's surface. The plane's crew sends the information to a satellite, which relays it to the National Weather Service.

What Do Satellites Measure?

Wind speeds. Satellites measure rotating surface winds when a storm is still in its infancy.

Sea temperatures. Using microwave imaging, satellites can detect sea-surface temperatures. This information helps forecasters predict if storms are likely to gain strength or weaken.

Air temperature and humidity. Satellites use an infrared system to read the air temperature and humidity at various spots around the world.

This information goes into the forecasting system.

Tower height. Inside a tropical depression, massive thunderclouds, called towers, build up. Satellites use infrared wavelengths to detect cloud temperatures and heights. Larger thunderclouds can indicate that a storm will intensify into a hurricane. A satellite called the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) uses a microwave-imaging system to scan the interior of storms and measure the towers.

Direction. A series of satellites keep track of storms after they develop. With repeated pictures of a storm's direction and speed, forecasters can better predict where the storm is likely to go.

Computer models. Using all the data from the satellites, airplanes, dropsonde, and ground systems, computer models predict the course and intensity of the storms. Emergency personnel use these predictions to help remove people from harm's way.

Katrina: Monster Storm

New Orleans, Louisiana, sits near the mouth of the Mississippi River on some of the most fertile land on Earth. This low-lying city, which is virtually surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, and Lake Pontchartrain, was not built to withstand a large hurricane. Eighty percent of the city is below sea level. So when meteorologists saw Hurricane Katrina headed straight for the city, they braced themselves for the worst. And then the worst came, but not in the ways the meteorologists had expected.

Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005. After sending a few winds across Florida, the storm moved into the Gulf of Mexico, where it grew to become one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. By the time Katrina blew toward Louisiana, the storm was as big as the state of Maryland.

City Plans

New Orleans officials had considered what would happen in the event of a big hurricane, but a viable plan was not in place as the storm approached. On August 27, President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Extreme Natural Disasters. Copyright © by Christine Gibson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
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  • Posted February 27, 2011

    Average

    This informative book by Christine Gibson is very interesting at some parts but other parts left me wanting to throw it away. I do not like Informative books so I may have a slight bias, but the way the information is gave in this book is slightly better than the bullet piont informfation you find in other informative books. On the other hand, the books organization was uninteresting. It would stay on one topic WAY too long. In the end I would have to say that it is an average book. There is a lot of positive parts in this book. One of the parts I really liked about the book is the strange natural disasters that took place. Some of these disasters I have never heard of before. This made the section a lot better for me since I was learning something new. An example is the dust storms. When I learned why dust storms happen, the consiquences of the dust storms, and how to be ready for dust storms that is when I really enjoyed the book. Another reason I enjoyed the book is the way Gibson described the scene to almost put you there. I could imagine in my mind what was happening around me with all 5 senses. This added a great element to the book. This is a positive addition to the book becuase you can think about what it actually felt for the people that were actually there and the fear and terror they must have had. Without these discriptions this book would have degenerated into nothing better than blank pages. Although there were some positives the book the negatives outweighed them, making this a 2 star book. One disadvantage in this book is the information that is stated multiple times. For example, the tornado section would have solid information about a certain event in acertain city. Then, on the next page, the information would practically say the exact same thing just with a different city name. This really annoyed me throughout the book because it felt like a was reading what I had already read. If the author would have changed it up a little bit the book would have been much better. Another reason this book lacked my expectations was because not all the information was given clearly. The information was not consistant throughout the book. On one topic would present it's information by picture descriptions. Then, in the next disaster, it would be stored in the paragraph. I like how all the information was eventually given but finding it was hard. If the information that was gave was all in the same spot it would make the book a lot more organized. Organization is key in an informative book. Overall, the book was average. The information and description was very good(4.5 stars). The organization of the information and the reapeating of descriptions are what made my reasons to give this book 2-2.5 stars. I would suggest that people who want to find out about natural disasters and like informative writing should read this book. If you do not like one or both of those I suggest not reading this book. Thanks for reading! ~JSL

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