SCIENCE IN THE NEWS: hurricane meets Music Festival. Guess who wins.

Earlier today, the United Nations issued a report warning that severe weather events will be increasing in the future. Fittingly, there’s bad news regarding one of the Summer’s biggest music festivals in the United States. Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has been cancelled until next year.. Organizers announced yesterday that they were canceling this year’s event due to flooded grounds.

Hurricane Ida has drenched the Tennessee and Ohio valleys with heavy rains and flooding as it heads north after making landfall as a hurricane on Sunday.

You can’t blame them for being cautious. Nobody likes electrocuted people at a music festival, no matter how good the lineup.

Needless to say, some people were upset.

A hurricane is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain and/or squalls.

The strong rotating winds of a hurricane result from the conservation of angular momentum imparted by the Earth’s rotation as air flows inwards toward the axis of rotation. As a result, they rarely form within 5° of the equator. 


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Hurricanes are almost unknown in the South Atlantic due to a consistently strong wind shear and a weak Intertropical Convergence Zone.

African easterly jets and areas of atmospheric instability give rise to cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, while cyclones near Australia owe their genesis to the Asian monsoon and Western Pacific Warm Pool.

The primary energy source for these storms is warm ocean waters. They are typically strongest when over or near water, and weaken quite rapidly over land. This causes coastal regions to be particularly vulnerable to tropical cyclones, compared to inland regions. 

Coastal damage may be caused by strong winds and rain, high waves (due to winds), storm surges (due to wind and severe pressure changes), and the potential of spawning tornadoes. 

Hurricanes draw in air from a large area and concentrate the water content of that air (from atmospheric moisture and moisture evaporated from water) into precipitation over a much smaller area. This replenishing of moisture-bearing air after rain may cause multi-hour or multi-day extremely heavy rain up to 40 kilometers (25 mi) from the coastline, far beyond the amount of water that the local atmosphere holds at any one time. This in turn can lead to river flooding, overland flooding, and a general overwhelming of local water control structures across a large area. 

Although their effects on human populations can be devastating, hurricanes may play a role in relieving drought conditions, though this claim is disputed. They also carry heat and energy away from the tropics and transport it towards temperate latitudes, which plays an important role in regulating global climate.

That said, common consensus seems to indicate that hurricanes are not particularly good for music festivals. Go figure.

IMAGE CREDIT: Stonyblony.


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