What happens when hurricanes collide?

Usually hurricanes happen one at a time. Scientists who study tropical cyclones – hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and typhoons in the Pacific – say that these storms rarely collide head-on. The last time was in 1995, when Hurricane Iris merged with Tropical Depression Karen.

Still, hurricanes do often react to each other’s movements. They may start to interact at even a thousand kilometers apart. As the storms move toward each other, one or both storms may break up. Or it might be like what happens when two skaters speed straight for one another, then grab hands. Two hurricanes might start to spin around each other. They might stay in a “mutual orbit” for hours, or days, before one overwhelms the other, or they separate and head off in different directions.

September 9, 2008

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