Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

, Volume 118, Issue 1–2, pp 21–29 | Cite as

On hurricane energy

  • Louis M. MichaudEmail author
Original Paper


Warm seawater is the energy source for hurricanes. Interfacial sea-to-air heat transfer without spray ranges from 100 W m−2 in light wind to 1,000 W m−2 in hurricane force wind. Spray can increase sea-to-air heat transfer by two orders of magnitude and result in heat transfers of up to 100,000 W m−2. Drops of spray falling back in the sea can be 2–4 °C colder than the drops leaving the sea, thus transferring a large quantity of heat from sea to air. The heat of evaporation is taken from the sensible heat of the remainder of the drop; evaporating approximately 0.3 % of a drop is sufficient to reduce its temperature to the wet bulb temperature of the air. The heat required to evaporate hurricane precipitation is roughly equal to the heat removed from the sea indicating that sea cooling is due to heat removal from above and not to the mixing of cold water from below. The paper shows how case studies of ideal thermodynamic processes can help explain hurricane intensity.


Heat Transfer Heat Flux Cooling Tower Convective Available Potential Energy Ocean Heat Content 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This article has benefited from discussion with Dr. Nilton Renno, constructive suggestions from two diligent anonymous reviewers and continuing support from journal editor Dr. Michael Kaplan.


  1. Andreas EL, Emanuel KA (2001) Effect of sea spray on tropical cyclone intensity. J Atmos Sci 58:3741–3751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bechtold P (2009) Atmospheric thermodynamics. Available from ECMWF at: Accessed 22 June 2012
  3. Bell MM, Montgomery MT (2008) Observed structure, evolution and potential intensity of category five hurricane Isabel (2003) from 12 to 14 September. Mon Wea Rev 136:2023–2046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beven J, Cobb H (2003) Tropical cyclone report hurricane Isabel, 6–19 September 2003, National Hurricane Center. Available at:
  5. Bister M, Emanuel KA (1998) Dissipative heating and hurricane intensity. Meteorol Atmos Phys 65:233–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Black P, D’Assaro E, Drennan W, French J, Niiler P, Sanford T, Terrill E, Walsh E, Zhang J (2007) Air–Sea exchange in hurricanes—synthesis of observations from the Coupled Boundary Layer Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) experiment. Bull Amer Met Soc 88:357–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Camp JP, Montgomery MT (2001) Maximum hurricane intensity: past and present. Mon Wea Rev 129:1704–1717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. COMET (2006) Topics in microwave remote sensing. Section 3.7-Sea surface temperature signatures in the Atlantic. Section 3.7—Sea surface temperatures. Accessed 25 January 2012
  9. D’Asaro EA, Sanford TB, Niiler PP, Terrill EJ (2007) Cold wake of hurricane Frances. Geophys Res Lett 34:L15609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Emanuel KA (1986) An air–sea interaction theory for tropical cyclones. Part I: steady-state maintenance. J Atmos Sci 43:585–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Emanuel KA (1995) The behavior of simple hurricane model using a convective scheme based on subcloud-layer entropy equilibrium. J Atmos Sci 52:3960–3968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Holland GJ (1997) The maximum potential intensity of tropical cyclones. J Atmos Sci 54:2519–2541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jordan CL (1958) Mean soundings for the West Indies area. J Meteor 15:91–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Josey SA, Kent EC, Taylor PK (1999) New insight into the ocean heat budget closure problem from analysis of the SOC air–sea flux climatology. J Climate 12:2856–2880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Michaud LM (2000) Thermodynamic cycle of the atmospheric upward heat convection process. Meterol Atmos Phys 72:29–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Michaud LM (2001) Total energy equation method for calculating hurricane intensity. Meterol Atmos Phys 78:35–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Michaud LM (2012a) Unpublished presentation on the use of simulator ProII for atmospheric convection calculations. Available at: Acessed 30 Jan 2012
  18. Michaud LM (2012b) Hurricane sea to air heat transfer. American meteorological society 18th conference on air-sea interaction. Available at: Accessed 23 Aug 2012
  19. Michaud LM (2012c) Atmospheric thermodynamics program for HP48SX calculator. Accessed 22 June 2012
  20. Michaud L, Michaud E (2010) Harnessing the energy of upward heat convection. Power Magaz 154–3:78-81. Available at: Accessed 16 June 2011
  21. Michaud L, Renno N (2011) The sky`s the limit. ASME Mech Eng Magaz 133–4:42-44. Available at: Accessed 16 June 2011
  22. Montgomery MT, Bell MM, Aberson SD, Black ML (2006) Hurricane Isabel (2003): new insights into the physics of intense storms. Part I Bull Am Meteor Soc 87:1335–1347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ooyama K (1969) Numerical simulation of the life cycle of tropical cyclones. J Atmos Sci 26:3–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ooyama K (2001) A thermodynamic foundation for modeling the moist atmosphere. J Atmos Sci 47:2580–2593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Persing J, Montgomery MT (2003) Hurricane superintensity. J Atmos Sci 60:2349–2371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Randall DA, Wang J (1992) The moist available energy of a conditionally unstable atmosphere. J Atmos Sci 49:240–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Randall DA, Wang J (1994) The moist available energy of a conditionally unstable atmosphere. Part II: further analysis of GATE data. J Atmos Sci 53:703–710Google Scholar
  28. Renno NO (2008) A thermodynamically general theory for convective vortices. Tellus 60A:688–699Google Scholar
  29. Shay L, Goni G, Black P (2000) Effects of a warm oceanic feature on hurricane Opal. Mon Wea Rev 128:1366–1383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Trenberth KE, Davis CA, Fassulo J (2007) Water and energy budgets of hurricanes: case studies of Ivan and Katrina. J Geophys Res 112:D23106CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AVEtec Energy CorporationSarniaCanada

Personalised recommendations