January 19, 2012

Hurricanes on Speed - The Hypercane

The hypercane theory was an accident, the StumbleUpon of the 90s. Kerry Emanuel, a professor at MIT was just trying to figure out what the highest intensity an ordinary hurricane could reach, but he found something entirely different instead. Emanuel, with his research team which included Nobel laureate Mario Molina, found that instead of hurricanes just getting warmer and creating new levels in the Safir-Simpson scale the intensity simply skyrocketed. The sudden jump in their models required them to classify it as an entirely different storm, thus creating the Hypercane.

So what exactly is a hypercane?

A hypercane is a theoretical extreme tropical cyclone of massive proportions that are caused by an extreme heating of the ocean in a particular area, probable causes being a direct impact from an asteroid or a significant underwater volcanic eruption.

During 1980 Physicist Luis Alvarez and Geologist son Walter Alvarez found something that supported the hypercane theory when searching the rock layers of the KT Boundary*. In the rock they found embedded in the layers of clay, something they didn’t expect. Extremely high levels of iridium, something not even commonly found on the surface of Earth- a platinum metal that is usually only found in asteroids and meteorites. And it was everywhere, all over the globe at the KT boundary ridiculously high levels of iridium were found. The only plausible explanation? .. An impact with Earth, and a big one at that. They estimated that something around 6 miles wide hit the Earth, causing the iridium to be spread globally, they also estimated that the crater would be about 100 kilometers in diameter.

And Glen Penfield had found just that while searching for oil, a monstrous crater underwater in the Yucatan Peninsula, The Chicxulub Crater.
The Chicxulub Crater Impact Site

I have to be honest with you- Who knows if we will even be around to see conditions optimal for creating hypercanes happen, and if they did how much warning we would even get… if we got any at all. But hey, it happened once, and it could most certainly happen again. I for one hope it doesn’t, cause then it’d be slim pickings dating wise.. and I don’t wanna have to repopulate the Earth- as my uterus kind of takes a liking to not being bombarded. For the foreseeable future though, we’ll just be stuck with slightly intensified storm seasons, with a lot more big ones. Always remember, if you see a storm that looks like it’s is going to hit near you or is tracked to do so- get out of there! .. And don’t forget to tie your laces before you start running like hell.

Who am I kidding though? If it were me, I’d be riding it out. Irene was cool, but I want a real hurricane. If one came I would most certainly stay behind to actually experience it.. but you have to remember that I’m Disaster Girl. If a major category hurricane came around I would also be very prepared, and not drunk like the other folks who’d ended up staying behind. I’d have a sweet boat, a life jacket, a water-resistant camera, scuba tanks and really do it right. None of that “I’m a survivor. I can do it with no supplies.” bullshit. Preparation is everything, and if you go at it with nothing you likely ended up being the dude that the coast guard has to spend hours rescuing (that is if they find you). You’ll go down in history as being the guy that decided it was a better idea to ride the current than actually grab onto something other than your IKEA sofa cushion.
xoxo disaster girl

P.F.S. Links for the Curious
MegaStorms: Hypercane
MIT Scientist says Hypercanes Possible
Hypercane Wiki

*The K–T boundary is a geological signature, usually a thin band, dated to (65.5 ± 0.3) Ma (megaannum, or million years ago). K is the traditional abbreviation for the Cretaceous period, and T is the abbreviation for the Tertiary period

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