Hurricane Hot Zones (Got an "Itch"?) Home > Hurricane Hot Zones (Got an "Itch"?)
Our "storm meister" is Senior Contributor Steve Faber, who came to study meteorology out of necessity, learning the skills out of an aversion to death and dismemberment -- his own! For years he was a private pilot and understanding weather was a basic survival skill....
The recipe for hurricanes from "Mother Nature's Cookbook" is a simple one: combine one part rain and thunderstorms with one part warm sea temperatures, stir with convective winds, and bake under direct sunlight. The region where those conditions occur is called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ (pronounced "itch" by weather geeks), a band of clouds and thunderstorms circling the globe relatively close to the equator.
The ITCZ follows the sun as the sun moves from north of the equator in our summer to south of the equator during our winter. Because the Earth is tilted about 23.5 degrees, the maximum northward trek of the sun stops at about 23.5 degrees north latitude around June 21 (the summer solstice). That line of latitude is marked on the globe as "the Tropic of Cancer," which passes directly through the Gulf of Mexico, so for June, the Gulf of Mexico is the hot zone for hurricane formation. The sun marches south by about a half degree per day, which places the spawning ground at about 15 degrees north of the equator by mid-July. That is the latitude of the Cape Verde Islands, located about 400 miles off the westernmost point of Africa, so, beginning in July, Western Africa around the islands becomes the next hot zone.
Did You Know?
Beyond their fame as a place for spawning tropical storms, the Cape Verde Islands made up of valleys and volcanoes are also a stop (albeit relatively unfamiliar) for cruise ships. This year, CostaRomantica and Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas will call at the port of Mindelo, on Sao Vicente Island, during trans-Atlantic voyages. There are no excursions offered, but traces of Portuguese culture can be found in harborside bars and shops (the islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and the language is still spoken there).