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The ‘why’ of a hurricane

AUG. 18 — Researchers with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and NASA this week began studying why some storms off Africa head over the Atlantic to North America and develop into tropical storms and hurricanes — and why some don’t.

Scientists have studied storms off Africa before, but this $4.5 million project will be the most in-depth of its kind, according to an Associated Press report. The researchers hope the work will help forecasters make more accurate hurricane predictions.

Each hurricane season about 60 thunderstorms develop off Africa and make their way west to North America, the report says. About 10 of these storms grow into tropical storms and major hurricanes. Researchers want to know why.

“We need to better understand how it ramps up and why does it weaken,” Jason Dunion, a scientist who will lead NOAA’s efforts in the project, says in the report.

From air and space, NOAA and NASA researchers will gather an unprecedented amount of data on temperature, humidity, air pressure, rainfall, dust particles and other factors during the month-long project, the report says.

— Jason Fell