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Shocking reason behind hurricanes not coming near the equator and changing directions

These powerful tropical storms known for their destructive potential, rarely cross or approach the equator due to the influence of the Coriolis force.

Shocking reason behind hurricanes not coming near the equator and changing directions
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

Hurricanes wreak havoc wherever they fall. They cause severe damage to life and property with their impact. The human population of that area is never the same after facing such a disaster. Hurricanes can be called a lot of names, such as cyclones, tropical storms and typhoons. There has been a lot of research done regarding the phenomenon. One of the most unique findings about this disaster is that they never seem to cross over the equator, as reported by IFL Science. It is very rare that they even come close to the equator. The reasoning behind it can be easily summed up in two words "Coriolis force."

Representative Image Source: Pixabay | Welcome to All
Representative Image Source: Pixabay | Welcome to All

Hurricanes are known as tropical storms mainly because of their origin. It forms in tropical and subtropical waters, with temperatures above 26°C (79°F). Their whole structure is low-pressure by nature, accompanied by certain features like thunder. To increase and maintain its momentum, the phenomenon takes help from warm ocean waters. The air above these waters gets heated, after which it rises due to evaporation and then ultimately cools down. The rushing of air during the process and the presence of low pressure lead to winds. The winds undertake a circular motion, which is termed a "closed circulation" by meteorologists, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The direction in which the spin undertakes is different in different places due to the Coriolis force.


Coriolis force is the element that has the biggest impact on the spin direction undertaken by the hurricane and the direction of winds surrounding it. Coriolis force not only affects hurricanes, but it is all-encompassing. It affects everything on earth. It is the inertial spinning that an object goes through because of the earth's rotation. The impact changes the way hurricanes move. In the Northern hemisphere, the earth's spin makes the air be pulled into a clockwise direction as a result, the hurricanes blow in a counterclockwise manner. The exact opposite of this happens in the Southern hemisphere, resulting in the hurricanes spinning in a clockwise manner.

Representative Image Source: Pexels/Ray Bilcliff
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Ray Bilcliff

The strength of hurricanes is highest in tropical waters, but despite this, they are unable to sustain themselves on their way to the equator. It is simply because there is negligible Coriolis effect in play. The equator usually has patches of stormy weather, which is not enough to give the hurricane the momentum it needs to spin. Hence, usually, when a storm tries to come near the equator, it loses its spin, which makes it change direction to save its vitality.


The 300km belt on either side of the equator is virtually considered cyclone-free due to this effect. There have been rare exceptions in the form of Typhoon Vamei and Hurricane Pali. Typhoon Vamei was a Pacific storm in 2001 that was formed 160km from the equator. Pali was formed 300 km north of the equator.

It justifies the theory put forward by Gary Barnes, Professor of Meteorology at the University of Hawaii that there are some ways for hurricanes to impact the areas near the equator. His own assertion was that it was a possibility that if a storm is well-developed, then it can surpass, as well as, overcome the weak Coriolis force to come near and pass the equator. However, he also noted it is very hard to achieve.

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