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Historic Hurricanes


As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is upon us, it is a time for reflection - not only on the suffering caused by Katrina, but also on the causes of such hurricanes and the very origins of these powerful weather conditions on Earth.

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a severe storm that forms as the result of energy transfer from equatorial latitudes to higher latitudes. If the right conditions last long enough, a hurricane can produce violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains and floods here on Earth.

Hurricanes are prevalent on other planets in the solar system as well. One of the most famous landmarks of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a huge hurricane at least 340 years old. And, since Jupiter is a gas planet there are no solid surfaces to impede the storm and dissipate its energy. Recently another storm called Red Spot Jr. began to draw attention to Jupiter as it picked up energy and moved toward the Great Red Spot. Red Spot Jr. is smaller than its namesake but no less powerful.

In addition, due to its internal heat source, the planet Neptune is known for its violent and stormy weather. In 1989, the Great Dark Spot, a cyclonic storm system, was discovered by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft. While the storm did resemble the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, on November 2, 1994 the Hubble Space Telescope was no longer able to locate the Great Dark Spot on the planet. Instead, a new storm similar to the Great Dark Spot was found in the planet's northern hemisphere. The Scooter is another storm described as a white cloud south of the Great Dark Spot. The Wizard's eye (Great Dark Spot 2) is a southern hurricane, the second most intensive hurricane on the planet.


CloudSat - CloudSat is an Earth orbiting spacecraft launched this year to view Earth storms in 3D.

STEREO - (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is a 2-year NASA mission employing two nearly identical space-based observatories to provide the very first, 3-D "stereo" images of the sun to study the nature of coronal mass ejections.

Solar-B - The launch of Solar-B allows scientists to soon investigate the interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and its corona.

SMART-1 - The SMART-1 mission ends with a planned impact of the spacecraft into the lunar surface.

NASA is ready to launch the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-115) for continued construction of the International Space Station, but it has been delayed due to tropical storm Ernesto heading toward the coast of Florida.

Features: To learn more about hurricanes and the conditions that cause them, please read Remembering Katrina - Learning and Predicting the Future, Birthplace of Hurricanes and Weather, Weather Everywhere. To learn more about the history of how scientists measure temperatures, check out Measuring Temperature Reading.

Fast Lesson Finder: K-12 Activities: Search our Fast Lesson Finder to find classroom lessons related to weather events. This month several activities describe hurricane and planet composition related lessons such as Changes Inside Planets, Here Comes the Heat and Looking Inside Planets.

People: Meet Kirk Breitenbach : A spacecraft systems engineer who has worked on many deep space missions.

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