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Dear UCSB, In my science class we we're discussing a topic of hurricanes and I asked a question about Hurricane Sandy and my teacher didn't know the answer. So here my question: How much water does an average hurricane pick up? Thanks
Question Date: 2014-04-30
Answer 1:

I was surprised to find the actual answer to this question. It is quite a bit more than I thought.

Clouds are composed of water and ice crystals. (As an aside, it's also pretty cool how clouds stay "up" in the air. The water droplets in them are so small that they don't fall through air because they weigh so little that gravity isn't strong enough on them to pull them down through the air.) According to this

thunderstorms source, the average thunderstorm contains 1.1 million gallons of water. That is just a single thunderstorm though.

This (hurricane) NPR video gives a weight for an average hurricane: 108 billion pounds of water. In gallons, that is 12,940,000,000 gallons.

That's hard to think about, so let's scale it. Wembley stadium, one of the largest in the world (wembley stadium), could be completely filled from floor to dome over 43 times by the average hurricane. That's a lot of water.

Answer 2:

Depending on the size of the storm, the power output of a hurricane is between 5 x 1013 W and 2 x 1014 W. Water has a heat of vaporization of 2.26 x 106 Joules/kilogram.

Dividing the power output by the heat of vaporization will give you the mass of water being evaporated off of the ocean every second - and the mass falling to the Earth as rain every second.

This doesn't tell you how much water is in the atmosphere while the hurricane is going, though, but it's not going to be a whole lot more than the amount of water in humid warm air under normal circumstances, because any more water than that causes the water to come out in the form of clouds rain - in other words, the things that a hurricane is made out of. The Earth's atmosphere is about 1% to 1.5% water.

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