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Double Trouble: The Fujiwhara Effect

Double Trouble: The Fujiwhara Effect

By Mahir Hossain, age 14

Hurricanes. A spiral of destruction with catastrophic winds, heavy downpour, and lightning strikes that can split cable lines and trees in half. Many have experienced the damaging effects of hurricanes in Latin America and the Southern United States, but what if there were two spirals of destruction, or worse, what if they were to collide? The rare phenomenon has already materialized in Louisiana and Texas amongst other states who encountered the storm’s wrath. So exactly how does the Fujiwhara effect work? 

The phenomenon is named after Sakuhei Fujiwhara, a Japanese meteorologist who was highly encapsulated with works of vortices, rotation, and other factors that contributed to such natural disasters. Although he put most of his time into the development of hurricane research, his findings of double vortices while studying at the Meteorological College of Japan was very intriguing to other meteorologists who tried to comprehend as they hypothesized on how hurricanes can merge or overtake in certain circumstances.

With Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Marco, the hurricanes “danced” around each other as they formed different trajectories around one central pivot, with Hurricane Marco already forming before Hurricane Laura. Hurricane Marco didn’t have much stability and collapsed shortly after touching the land. However, Hurricane Laura became much more powerful as it soared through categories 1 and 2, absorbing humid moisture and water from the Gulf of Mexico. As the Fujiwhara Effect changed the trajectory towards the Eastern United States, Hurricane Laura was issued as a severe thunderstorm warning, with high winds and several inches of rain.

What’s more interesting is that the trajectory of a hurricane is not the only thing that can be changed with the Fujiwhara Effect. The term “megastorm” is something you would hear out of an action film or thought of as the ultimate move, but it’s possible. Hurricanes of different sizes can be fused together to create a “mega storm” although it is highly unlikely. A different interpretation of this that is more common is when a much larger hurricane would absorb a smaller hurricane, thus composing itself of slightly higher winds and increase in size amongst other attributes.

Conclusively, the Fujiwhara Effect is one of the many explainable phenomenons that are backed up by such perplexing encounters. However, it shows that the limitless possibilities of nature are infinite, and such encounters will help broaden our knowledge and help develop necessary measures to combat issues such as climate change, which are making our natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes stronger with help from such excess moisture.

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