The forces that govern the trajectories of hurricanes and how they have protected Tampico from direct impact

Tropical cyclones are one of the most fascinating weather phenomena. Despite the scientific knowledge that exists today, myths persist about its trajectory.

An average of 100 tropical cyclones develop around the planet every year. Mexico is surrounded by the second and third region with the largest cyclonic formation in the world.

The trajectory of the tropical storm Alberto removed one of the most mentioned urban myths in Mexico, that of Tampico and the alleged extraterrestrial base that keeps the city protected from the direct impact of hurricanes.

Tropical cyclones form over warm oceans, where they absorb heat and moisture.

Tampico is a coastal city in Tamaulipas, northeast of Mexico, it has been hit by several hurricanes. Some of the most significant are Janet from 1955, Gilberto from 1988 and more recently Ingrid in 2013.

The idea of "protection" in Tampico persists despite being located in an area where each cyclonic season these meteorological phenomena move, and the indirect and direct impacts that have been recorded in the city.

What moves tropical cyclones?

Cyclones, like other meteorological phenomena, move due to a combination of factors and dynamics in the atmosphere. Although the formation and development of a tropical cyclone is the result of atmospheric and oceanic factors, it is the atmosphere that is responsible for determining its movement.

hurricane Grace
The trajectory of Hurricane Grace in August 2021 stoked the belief of Tampico's protection against this type of phenomenon.

These phenomena are mainly driven by the large-scale dominant winds in the atmosphere. These winds blow at different altitudes and directions, creating air currents that determine the direction and speed of the movement of the cyclone.

A cyclone is like a cork that floats in a stream of water, that stream will be in charge of transporting the cork, in the same way do the wind currents in the atmosphere that surround the cyclone.

Anticyclones, rectors in the translation movement of cyclones

High-pressure centres "force" cyclones to move on their periphery, which is why some cyclones follow trajectories to the west without barely being able to gain in latitude.

On the other hand, some cyclones make sudden turns in their trajectory when they are captured by vaguadas, this is a great challenge for the prognosis of their trajectory.

A fictional force, coriolis

Due to the rotation of the planet around its axis, large-scale movement in the atmosphere and the ocean is affected by the coriolis force. This effect is more pronounced far from the equator.

In the northern hemisphere, Coriolis' force deflects the movement to the right in relation to the direction of movement. In the southern hemisphere, the deviation is to the left.

storm surge
Coastal cities are impacted by one of the deadliest phenomena associated with cyclones, the storm surge.

This force influences the formation and trajectory of tropical cyclones such as hurricanes and typhoons, as well as atmospheric circulation patterns in general. It is not perceptible in phenomena such as tornadoes.

The trajectory forecast of cyclones today

At present it is still a challenge to predict the trajectory of some tropical cyclones due to the high uncertainty that governs their movement, this is due to the complex interactions that occur in the atmosphere.

Meteorologists use advanced computational models and observational data to predict how a cyclone will move, providing timely warnings for communities at risk.