Hurricanes, Tropical Cyclones and Typhoons

You'll probably find that a lot of students are feeling very depressed about the world and so this article will help them to look at it from a different angle.

Make up as many abstract questions as possible. Comparing past disasters and what they would do if they were in one helps students deal with some of the concerns that they may have. You can discuss environmental issues, costs, rising petrol prices, affects on the world economy, behavioural changes and other far reaching consequences. For the older student you can talk about home and contents insurance and insurers, stock market effects, international aid, crude oil reserves and lawlessness.

Natural Disasters - Hurricanes, Tropical Cyclones and Typhoons

Hurricanes, tropical cyclones and typhoons are storm systems of cyclonic force that form over seas and oceans. If the wind speed increases past 120 kilometres an hour it is classed as one of these natural disasters, depending on where you are in the world. You'll find hurricanes in America, cyclones in Australia and typhoons in Japan. And, of course, every country has their own word for them.

These weather systems are created through the normal formation of storms from water evaporating from the ocean. The spin and winds are caused by the Coriolis Effect and then it's up to pressure systems as to where the disaster will head.

The world has had thousands of recorded hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons with billions of people dead and displaced. Records before the 18th century are assumed to be underestimated. In any case every 25 to 40 years the world gets a major influx of cyclonic winds destroying buildings, land and lives.

The most disastrous cyclone to hit Australia was on Christmas Eve in 1974. It almost wiped Darwin from the map. 50 people dead, thousands without homes.

The worst typhoon to hit Japan was in Honshu in September 1958. 5000 people dead and 1.5 million homeless. Typhoon Tokage, which hit Japan in 2004, was the worst typhoon in 25 years.

One of the worst hurricanes in western history is believed to have happened in October 1780. Based on population estimates at the time it is recorded that 20,000-22,000 people were killed after the hurricane completely levelled everything on the islands of Barbados, Martinique and St Eustatius.

The worst disaster to hit Bangladesh was in 1970 when a cyclone, and the floods that came after it, killed 500,000 people and displaced millions. The Bay of Bengal has, for centuries, been known as the worst cyclone area on the planet.

The worst hurricane in the 21st century so far in regards to cost is believed to be Hurricane Katrina which ripped through New Orleans and other parts of the USA in August 2005. The resulting floods and disease left thousands dead and millions homeless.

Tornadoes, or twisters, are similar to cyclones but water is not part of their system. In April 1974 the US and Canada suffered 148 tornadoes across 13 states in 24 hours. 315 dead, 5000 injured and thousands more homeless.

Discussion questions

1. Do you believe that the increase in hurricane, cyclone, typhoon and tornado devastation in recent years is caused by global warming, or do you believe that due to the influence and reach of the media in the 21st century, we are now more aware of them?

2. Should people live in areas that are prone to cyclonic weather systems or other natural disasters? Why do they live there?

3. Do you think that humans will one day be able to control the weather?

4. If you were an insurance salesman, would you want to sell housing insurance to people in places that experience hurricanes?

5. New Orleans has been in the news of late due to the violence, looting, raping and gang warfare that has broken out as a result of the sudden lawlessness of the area. Do you believe that human beings tend to fall back to primitive, barbaric behaviour when the world collapses about them?

6. If you lost your friends, your place of work, your family, your house, all your possessions due to a natural disaster, and all you had was a pair of shorts and a desperation to live, what would you do?

7. Long range weather forecasters believe that major weather patterns can be predicted from the position of the moon and the influence of its and other solar systems bodies' gravity. If we could predict hurricanes, do you think the humanitarian disaster in New Orleans could have been averted?

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