Impacts of Hurricanes on Forest Hydrology and Biogeochemistry

  • William H. McDowellEmail author
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 216)


Hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones, and other tropical storms affect many areas of the globe. Although the names used vary regionally, here I will refer to hurricanes to describe the impacts of these tropical storms globally. The intensity and frequency of hurricanes vary dramatically in different areas of the globe, but their origins are always in warm tropical waters such as the North Atlantic off the African coast, or the central Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes result from the interaction of heated sea water with global wind circulation patterns to create a contained meteorological system with persistent cyclonic circulation rotating around a low-pressure center (Fig. 32.1). Hurricanes initially arise from tropical storms with incomplete circulation, and as they grow in strength the circulation (counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern) closes with an “eye” in the center. Once the circulation is complete, the system is referred to as a hurricane if wind speeds exceed 119 km h−1. Each hurricane has both a speed (the rate at which the storm is moving across the face of the earth) and a strength (the velocity of the cyclonic circulation). The strength of the hurricane changes over time, and usually declines after initial landfall. Damage to forests is typically a function of the hurricane strength, which determines the likelihood of both damage to trees and the storm surges that can occur in low-lying coastal areas. Hurricanes are often associated with high rains, with totals of 25 cm or more.


Forest Floor Storm Surge Riparian Zone Coarse Woody Debris Tropical Storm 
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.



Primary support for manuscript preparation was provided by NSF DEB-0816727 with additional support from DEB-0620919. Most of the work summarized for Puerto Rico was supported by the NSF LTER program, the University of Puerto Rico, and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Dr. Del Levia kindly provided assistance in modification of Fig. 32.3.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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