Steel Building Systems, Inc
Did you ever notice how closely meteorologists and hurricane forecasters watch the barometric pressure in hurricanes and tropical storms? There is a very good reason for their concern: the lower the barometric pressure, the more intense the storm.
While we armchair weather watchers tend to focus on the category designation of a cyclone or the highest wind speed, weather specialists know the pressure indicates whether a hurricane is weakening or strengthening.
When acrobats climb in higher and higher tiers, the man at the bottom of the formation feels greater and greater weight. So it is with air. The outer atmosphere places pressure on the gas molecules closest to the Earth, compressing the air at the bottom with its bulk. Air’s gas molecules are squished closer together, making the air denser and heavier.
Air pressure, also called barometric pressure, indicates how the weight of the atmosphere above is shifting. A falling air pressure generally means an approaching storm in the next 12 to 24 hours. The farther the barometric pressure drops, the more intense the storm.
Air pressure is measured with a barometer. Barometers typically use a column of mercury in a glass or a coiled tube to measure air pressure. A barometer measures in units called millibars, meaning the atmospheric force exerted on one square meter of surface. As terrain rises above sea level, the barometric pressure also rises as the air’s gas molecules become less dense.
Scientists consider 1013.2 millibars to be the normal air pressure at sea level on a calm day.
Meteorologists gauge not only the intensity but also the cycling of a tropical event by the drops or rises in air pressure and wind speeds. If the pressure increases, the hurricane may be losing strength (or going through a cycle of reorganizing). If the pressure goes down, the storm is gaining strength and wind speeds.
A “low-pressure system” refers to an area with barometric readings lower than the area surrounding it. Low-pressure systems generally produce high winds, warmer air, and atmospheric lift— ideal ingredients for a tropical storm. The lower the barometric pressure in hurricanes, the higher the wind speeds— and the more dangerous the storm.
Here are the lowest barometric pressure readings of a few of the more infamous hurricanes:
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