how are hurricanes and thunderstorms similar

How are hurricanes and thunderstorms similar?

Hurricanes and thunderstorms are among nature’s most ferocious storms regarding extreme weather. 

All these weather systems may occur at all four corners of the world, and distinguishing between them can be difficult since they all have unique characteristics. 

Hurricanes and thunderstorms are similar in the way they develop. These storms need three key components to form: Unstable air, moisture, and lift are all factors.

The oceans provide most of the Earth’s atmospheric moisture, and regions nearby warm ocean currents are particularly effective in evaporating water and sending it into the air.

But how are hurricanes and thunderstorms similar? Continue reading to find out.

How Are Thunderstorms and Hurricanes Formed?

thunderstorm hurricane formation

When warm, moist air rises and collides with cooler air, a thunderstorm develops.

As the air cools, the water vapor in it condenses into droplets of liquid water, a process known as condensation.

Cooled air descends into the atmosphere, heats, and rises again. A convection cell is a circuit of rising and descending air. A cloud will develop if this occurs in a modest quantity.

A thunderstorm may arise if this happens with a big volume of air and moisture.

How Do Hurricanes Form?

Hurricanes are the most powerful storms on the planet. They occur over warm ocean waters around the equator.

In reality, the name hurricane refers exclusively to major storms across the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans.

A tropical cyclone is a scientific name for these storms wherever they occur. Depending on where they are born, they are also known as typhoons, cyclones, solid tropical cyclones, or severe cyclonic storms. 

hurricane form

Whatever name they are given, the same forces and circumstances are at work in the formation of these massive storms, any of which may bring damage or destruction when they strike land where people live.

Where Do They Originate?

Tropical cyclones are similar to engines that run on warm, moist air. So warm ocean water is the first element required for a tropical cyclone. 

As a result, tropical cyclones originate only in tropical locations where the water temperature is at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit for at least the top 50 meters (approximately 165 feet) below the surface.

The wind is the second component of a tropical storm.

The wind moving westward across the Atlantic from Africa supplies the key element for storms that develop in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Water evaporates (turns into water vapor) and rises when the wind blows over the ocean’s surface.

Water vapor cools and condenses into huge water droplets as it climbs, generating gigantic cumulonimbus clouds. 

hurricane thunderstorm similar

How Are Hurricanes and Thunderstorms Similar?

Both hurricanes and thunderstorms are similar in many aspects, including the following:

1. They are Convective Storms

Both hurricanes and thunderstorms are convective storms generated by warm, wet air.

As temperatures rise, evaporation increases, as does heat transfer from the seas to the atmosphere. 

Storms draw in more water vapor and heat as they pass through warm waters. When the storms strike land, this implies higher winds, more rainfall, and more floods.

2. They Cause Flash Flooding and Heavy Rain

Both hurricanes and thunderstorms may be accompanied by heavy and continuous precipitation.

Even the most minor category of any of these storms may produce heavy rainfall and flash floods.

hurricane heavy rain

3. They Both Have Strong Winds

Hurricanes and thunderstorms generate powerful winds that, when accelerated by topographical factors, may damage trees, plants, crops, residences, and other buildings.

Ridge tops and exposed sites downslope from mountains are particularly vulnerable.

4. High Waves and Storm Surge are also Present

Large ocean waves may reach islands’ coastlines when the storm is still hundreds of miles away. 

Rapidly increasing water levels from above-normal storm tides and powerful wind-driven waves will inundate coastal regions, erode beaches, and pound and damage waterfront buildings and roadways as the hurricane and thunderstorm approach the shoreline.

Note: Hurricanes and thunderstorms are particularly deadly due to powerful winds, heavy rainfall, and extremely high waves and storm surge. 
high waves storm surge

Each of these variables may constitute a major danger to life and property on its own, but when combined, they have the potential to cause a massive loss of life and extensive devastation.

5. They Both Occur in Different Forms

Both hurricanes and thunderstorms occur in different types or stages as follows:

The Hurricanes

Hurricanes develop in four stages, depending on their place of occurrence, as explained below:

Tropical Disturbance

When warm ocean water vapor condenses to create clouds, it transfers heat into the atmosphere. The warmed air rises and is drawn into the cloud column.

satellite view hurricane

Evaporation and condensation proceed, raising and expanding the cloud columns. 

A pattern emerges, with the wind around a central point (like water going down a drain).

As the flowing column of air collides with other clouds, it forms a cluster of thunderstorm clouds known as a tropical disturbance.

Tropical Depression

The air at the top of the cloud column is cooling and getting unstable as the thunderstorm rises higher and bigger. 

The air at the top of the clouds warms as the heat energy from the cooling water vapor is released, boosting the air pressure and forcing winds away from the high-pressure zone.

Pressures at the surface fall as a result of this movement and warming. 

The surface air then rises and flows into the lower pressure region, causing additional thunderstorms winds in the storm cloud column whip around in a circular pattern, spinning faster and faster. 

When winds reach 25 to 38 mph, the storm is classified as a tropical depression.

tropical storm forming
Tropical Storm

The tropical depression becomes a tropical storm when wind speeds reach 39 mph. This is also the time when the storm is given a name.

The winds pick up speed, twist and turn around the storm’s eye, or calm center.

 In the northern hemisphere, winds blow counterclockwise (west to east), whereas, in the southern hemisphere, winds blow clockwise (east to west).

The Coriolis effect describes this behavior.

Note: When a hurricane hits land, it loses strength because it no longer receives energy from the warm ocean waters. 

However, they often proceed well inland, dropping many inches of rain and inflicting extensive wind damage before dying altogether.

The Thunderstorms

thunderstorm over sea

Thunderstorms may have a single convection cell, numerous convection cells, or even a single exceedingly big and strong convection cell.

The three varieties of thunderstorms are described here according to their structure: single-cell, multi-cell, and supercell.

Single-cell Thunderstorms 

Single-cell storms are thunderstorms formed by just one convection cell in the atmosphere.

Most of them are brief, lasting just about an hour, and are known as regular thunderstorms.

These storms often arise throughout the summer and involve towering cumulonimbus clouds that may reach a height of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) in the skies.

Rain and lightning are regular occurrences. Hail does sometimes fall.

Multi-cell Thunderstorms
thunderstorm over farm

Some thunderstorms are formed by multiple convection cells moving in unison. These are referred to as multi-cell thunderstorms. 

Convection cells are often grouped in clusters, each cell at a distinct stage of the thunderstorm cycle. 

Squall lines arise when multi-cell storms form along a cold or warm front when warm air is pushed up into the sky above cold air.

The squall line may stretch up to 1000 km (600 miles). Strong wind gusts are common immediately before a storm.

Supercell Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms with deep, spinning updraft winds, known as supercells, are enormous and may linger for hours, dumping massive volumes of rain and sometimes baseball-sized hail. 

formation of thunderstorm

They include rapid moving convection, which is air rushing upward at speeds of up to 280 kilometers (175 miles) per hour.

Because supercells are long-lived, rotation may produce severe tornadoes, the biggest and most dangerous. 

A single supercell thunderstorm may create many tornadoes. Supercell clouds may develop up to 18 km (11 miles) high in the atmosphere, all the way to the stratosphere.

Supercell thunderstorms are the rarest sort of thunderstorms, yet they are the most destructive.

Note: Thunderstorms always start with air rising into the sky to create a convection cell, but the air may be raised in various ways. 

Another approach to categorizing thunderstorms is based on where they occur and why the air rises.

Do Hurricanes Have Thunder and Lightning?

hurricane thunder lightning

Hurricanes are among the most destructive weather phenomena on the planet, frequently bringing extremely high winds, rain, and dark clouds. 

They frequently appear during the hot summer months when temperatures are high and can feed on tropical updrafts in the ocean.

Do hurricanes, however, have thunder and lightning?

Normally, hurricanes do not produce lightning and thunder because lightning and thunder are created by vertical winds rubbing together water and ice.

This friction generates the electrical field responsible for lightning and thunder.

The wind must hail in a vertical motion to create lightning. It travels horizontally during a thunderstorm or as it makes landfall. 

Because vertical motion is required for the generation of lightning, the requisite friction does not usually occur with the horizontal movement of storms. 

Why Do Hurricanes Don’t Have Thunder and Lightning?

heavy wind hurricane

As a result of the lack of vertical breezes, water and ice do not come into touch. As a result, most storms that strengthen into hurricanes feature precipitation but neither lighting nor thunder.

Thunderstorms create intense updrafts of air, whereas hurricanes have horizontal winds.

Winds seldom whirl vertically rapidly enough to produce lightning. However, it has been known to occur.

However, when Hurricanes generate lightning, they have several characteristics:

  • Before they reached ashore, lightning was reported.
  • The lightning struck close to the hurricane’s eyewall.
  • They were all strong hurricanes classified as category 4 or 5 storms.

Hurricanes with lightning are quite damaging. Electric storms may wreak havoc and devastation.

lightning struck

Scientists are still unsure why certain storms create lightning, but one thing is certain: lightning protection is essential, particularly if you reside in hurricane-prone regions.

Note: There is no lightning in hurricanes. It is very unusual because they lack vertical breezes, which induce abrasion of water and ice, reducing the likelihood of lightning. Winds are blowing horizontally amid the storm.

Final Verdict

Do hurricanes have thunder and lightning? Both hurricanes and thunderstorms are convective storms generated by warm, wet air.

In reality, hurricanes are mostly composed of thunderstorms. Both produce rain and wind. 

Winds powerful enough to inflict damage are present in all hurricanes but only in certain thunderstorms. Both may create floods and, on rare occasions, tornadoes.

When wet air rises and cools, the moisture condenses and releases energy held as latent heat. Thanks for reading!