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  • Rob: We have an energy question today. Can you tell us about the energy within a hurricane?

  • Jeff: The energy in a hurricane comes from the ocean. Of all

  • the places, who would think, but the really warm water in the ocean,

  • that causes the water to evaporate. And when

  • these molecules leave the surface of the water, they take some heat energy with them, and

  • as that heat energy gets up into the hurricane, those water vapor

  • molecules condense and they release their heat into the atmosphere.

  • And that's how the hurricane gets its power. That warm air we see in the

  • center of the storm--the eye--that comes from the ocean basically.

  • Rob: Is there a name for that heat? Jeff: That's called latent heat because

  • latent means it's kind of hidden. So you can't put a thermometer in it and measure it directly,

  • but it's in those molecules. They're like little mobile solar collectors.

  • Rob: And what happens to the energy after the hurricane is dissipating?

  • Jeff: So the top of the hurricane behaves like a giant radiator in

  • an engine. It's warmer than its surroundings because of all that heat

  • and it just radiates it out to space. Narrator: Researchers from

  • NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration work from both

  • in the air and on the ground, investigating the energy needed to form hurricanes,

  • as well as the energy hurricanes release. Looking at these factors

  • may help scientists better predict the strength and paths of the storms

  • ensuring the safety of people everywhere. While NASA and NOAA work all around the

  • globe studying hurricanes, here's a classroom activity that lets us look at

  • real hurricanes and make some observations of our own.

  • This activity from My NASA Data allows students to examine sea surface

  • temperature to explore how hurricanes extract heat energy from the ocean's

  • surface. In this exercise, we have access to data

  • and images that researchers and satellites have gathered on Hurricane Rita,

  • a Category 5 hurricane that tore through the Gulf of Mexico in September 2005.

  • If we want to look at energy on a large scale, this is a

  • good place to start. Here, we're looking at the period during

  • and right after Hurricane Rita, using data from the GOES and Aqua satellites

  • which provide information on clouds and infrared energy from the ocean's

  • surface. We'll be creating a time series of images of the Gulf

  • of Mexico in order to investigate sea surface temperature changes in the wake

  • of a hurricane. Hurricanes cause a large transfer of heat between

  • the ocean's surface and the atmosphere. They also cause upwelling,

  • which is ocean circulation that brings cold, deep water to the surface.

  • We see these effects in a dramatic decrease in sea surface temperature,

  • a trend that can last for a week or longer after the storm.


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