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Why is there calm before a storm?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. The old phrase "calm before the storm" has been used for generations -- many people believe that the worst storms are immediately preceded by a period of calm, smooth weather. The reason for these periods of calm is simple; storms are caused by an updraft of moisture and heat coalescing in one area. As storm clouds form, some of the moisture-saturated air is pushed out of the tops of the highest clouds in the storm system. As this air descends back down, it begins to compress, becoming drier and warmer. Warm, dry air is more stable than cool, wet air; as a result, the air that initially formed the storm also acts as a temporary shield, preventing more air from entering the storm cloud formation and producing the "calm" before the storm. Not all storms work this way, and if there is anything that's constant about weather, it's Mother Nature's unpredictability.

    The eye of a hurricane is in the middle of the giant storm -- not ahead of it, as the phrase goes -- yet it's normally calm. That's because the eye, or center, of the storm houses it low pressure. Air, in the form of wind, tries to move into the eye to equalize pressure, but does so in a curve called the Coriolis force. It moves with such great force near the eye that it ends up blowing in a circle and creating an "eye wall." Air flows up and out the top of this area. Researchers have confirmed that tornadoes have a calm core (relatively speaking) much like the eye of hurricanes, around which the intense wins spiral [source: USA Today].

    It's a myth, however, that the sea is calm in the eye of a hurricane. The myth most likely comes from the fact that winds are lighter and calmer in the hurricane's eye. But you still don't want to be out there on a boat: Winds swirl from all directions around the eye, and create giant swells and other sea movement. The seas become wild and unpredictable near the eye of a hurricane [source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. 

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