Hurricanes wield a devastating force which cannot be stopped by anything. But just how strong is that force in terms of energy? Large tropical cyclones spin at extremely high speeds, and in this process, they use up and release tremendous amounts of energy.
Of course, a lot of factors play a role in just how much energy will be expended by a hurricane. The size, the movement, and the strength of the cyclone play a crucial role in the amount of energy that will be expended.
This also depends on how mature the hurricane is and whether the energy is released by the winds or the cloud/rain formation.
Energy from winds
The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory reports that the wind-generated energy of a typical mature hurricane would equal to 1.5 x (10^12) Watts or 1.3 x (10^17) Joules per day. This amounts to about a half of the total electrical-generating capacity on our planet!
The average hurricane has the ability to produce around 0.6 inches (or 1.5 cm) of rain a day in a radius of around 360 nautical miles (665 km). In order for that water to evaporate, a staggering 6 x (10^14) Watts/day or 5.2 x (10^19) Joules/day of energy would be required. And this equals to about 200 times the worldwide electrical generating capacity.
10,000 Nuclear Bombs
NASA reports that during its life cycle, an average hurricane can use up an amount of energy which can equal that of 10,000 nuclear bombs. If unleashed all at the same time, this amount would be enormously destructive.
Luckily, the average life cycle of a tropical cyclone can last anywhere from two days to a whole month. So, the energy expenditure is distributed throughout the different stages of the hurricane’s life, starting from the tropical depression, through the tropical storm, and ending with the hurricane’s death.
To understand this better, the average hurricane comes at wind speeds of 74 mph (119 km/h) and a 100-mile (160 km) diameter. And this is just a Category 1 hurricane. When it gets to category 2, 3, 4, and 5, the energy expenditure rises to a lot more than that of 10,000 nuclear bombs!
This is just another way nature reminds us that no matter how powerful we are, we can never be more powerful than its destructive power.