hurricane

Unless you’re a meteorology buff, probably not much. And maybe it’s better that way.

MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel ′76, PhD ′78 says that, hypothetically, a hypercane could form if extremely humid, warm air and storm conditions combined with ocean water that was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The resulting “hypercane,” or mega-hurricane, would feature raging center winds of about 500 miles per hour, water vapor, sea spray, and storm debris that spewed so high, it would punch a hole in the the earth’s stratosphere. Think of it like Hurricane Katrina on steroids.

It is possible? Emanuel and his colleagues recently told reporters at The Daily Galaxy, yes. The wet, stormy air wouldn’t be hard to come by, though the hot ocean water would be rare. Current hurricanes form in 80+ degree ocean water. However, the impact of a large asteroid hitting the tropical ocean or a massive undersea volcano could generate such intense heating.

In fact, Emanuel and his colleagues think that asteroid-triggered hypercanes may have contributed to mass extinctions millions of years ago.

Frightened? Fascinated? Learn more about Emanuel’s research or watch a clip about hypercanes from the History Channel: