#WeatherInAMinute: How much energy is in a hurricane?


A satellite image shows Hurricane Laura. (Courtesy NOAA)

Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

In today’s first installment of #WeatherInAMinute, CBS 42’s Storm Team Chief Meteorologist Ashley Gann answers the question: how much energy is in a hurricane?

This question was inspired by a social media post that said, “all the energy in a hurricane is equivalent to a nuclear bomb.” While that isn’t entirely false, it’s not entirely true either. In fact, a hurricane has as much energy as 10,000, yes 10,000, nuclear bombs.

Here’s how it works:

A hurricane generates energy in many ways, so if you bottle up all the energy output of the wind, rain, evaporation, you get a really big number. In fact, the wind alone creates 1.3 x 10^17 joules of energy per day. That’s according to the Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory. That is equivalent to half the total electrical generating capacity on earth. Now, when you take into account the wind and add in how much energy it takes to generate rain and clouds, through the process of evaporation, that is equivalent to 200 times the total electrical generating capacity on the planet.

That means that the average lifecycle of a hurricane generates as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs.

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