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Hurricane Maria losing its characteristic structure after making landfall in Puerto Rico Maria FT 20170920 0715 UTC.gif
Hurricane Maria losing its characteristic structure after making landfall in Puerto Rico

Landfall is the event of a storm moving over land after being over water. More broadly, and in relation to human travel, it refers to 'the first land that is reached or seen at the end of a journey across the sea or through the air, or the fact of arriving there'. [1]


Tropical cyclone

A tropical cyclone is classified as making landfall when the center of the storm moves across the coast; in strong tropical cyclones this is when the eye moves over land. [2] This is where most of the damage occurs within a mature tropical cyclone, such as a typhoon or hurricane, as most of the damaging aspects of these systems are concentrated near the eyewall. Such effects include the peaking of the storm surge, the core of strong winds coming ashore, and heavy flooding rains. These coupled with high surf can cause major beach erosion. In low-lying areas, the storm surge can stay inland for a long time and mix with chemicals already in the area to create a toxic mess.[ citation needed ] When a tropical cyclone makes landfall, the eye closes in upon itself due to the weakening process, which causes surf to decrease. Maximum sustained winds will naturally decrease as the cyclone moves inland due to frictional differences between water and land with the free atmosphere. [3]

Landfall is distinct from a direct hit. A direct hit is where the core of high winds (or eyewall) comes onshore but the center of the storm may stay offshore. The effects of this are quite similar to a landfall, as this term is used when the radius of maximum wind within a tropical cyclone moves ashore. [4] These effects are high surf, heavy rains that may cause flooding, water buildup along the coast with minor storm surge, coastal beach erosion, high winds, and possibly severe thunderstorms with tornadoes around the periphery.

Storms, e.g., hurricanes, can be quite wide. Potentially dangerous winds, rain and flooding may impact an area near the center of the storm even though technically landfall may not have occurred. Accordingly it may be helpful, to gauge the anticipated impact of such storms, to be aware of their general location, and land masses adjacent to the major thrust of the storm.

Tornado or waterspout

When a tornadic waterspout makes landfall it is reclassified as a tornado, [5] which can subsequently cause damage to areas inland of the coast. When a fair weather waterspout makes landfall it usually dissipates quickly due to friction and a reduction in the amount of warm air supplied to the funnel. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Cyclone large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low pressure

In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes, and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.

The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS), formerly the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale (SSHS), classifies hurricanes – Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones – that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms – into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds.

Hurricane Ophelia (2005) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 2005

Hurricane Ophelia was the fifteenth named tropical cyclone and the eighth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was a long-lived storm that was most remembered for its very erratic and extremely slow track off the East Coast of the United States, alternating several times between tropical storm and hurricane intensity.

Tropical Storm Charley (1998) Atlantic tropical storm in 1998

Tropical Storm Charley was the third named storm of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season. Charley was the first of two tropical storms to make landfall in Texas during that season. The storm originated with a tropical wave that moved off the West African coast on August 9. The wave moved generally west-northwestward, producing occasional bursts of convection, finally arriving in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by August 19, when animated satellite images began to indicate it had possibly developed a low pressure center. Hurricane Hunter investigations into the system the next day revealed that this was not the case. The system lingered for two days, lacking an organized low level center of circulation until early on the morning of August 21, when advisories were initiated on the tropical depression, 185 miles (298 km) east of Brownsville, Texas. The depression became a tropical storm later that day, as it moved steadily west-northwestward, strengthening, and then weakening again before making landfall the next morning around Port Aransas, Texas. The storm moved slowly inland and finally dissipated on the morning of the August 24 near the town of Del Rio, Texas.

Tropical Storm Fay (2002) Atlantic tropical storm in 2002

Tropical Storm Fay was the sixth named storm of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season; it was a moderate tropical storm which caused flooding in parts of Texas and Mexico. In early September, a trough of low pressure moved south into the Gulf of Mexico, and became stationary. A low pressure center developed along this trough, and on September 5, a Hurricane Hunter airplane reported that the system had gained sufficient organization to be a tropical depression, 95 miles (153 km) southeast of Galveston. The depression drifted south-southwest while strengthening, reaching its peak strength of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) on the morning of September 6. The system then made an abrupt turn to the west-northwest, and remained steady in strength and course until landfall the next day, near Matagorda. The system weakened at a fast rate after landfall, but its circulation would not totally dissipate for three more days.

Hurricane Javier (2004) Category 4 Eastern Pacific hurricane in 2004

Hurricane Javier was a very wet tropical cyclone whose remnants brought above-average rainfall totals across the western United States in September 2004. Javier was the tenth named storm and the sixth and final hurricane of the 2004 Pacific hurricane season. Javier was also the strongest hurricane of the 2004 season, with 150 mph (240 km/h) winds and a central pressure of 930 millibars. However, because of high wind shear in the East Pacific, Javier weakened rapidly before making landfall in Baja California as a tropical depression. The remnants of the storm then continued moving northeast through the Southwestern United States. Javier caused no direct fatalities, and the damage in Mexico and the United States was minimal.

Tropical Storm Alberto (2006) first tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season

Tropical Storm Alberto was the first tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. Forming on June 10 in the northwestern Caribbean, the storm moved generally to the north, reaching a maximum intensity of 70 mph (110 km/h) before weakening and moving ashore in the Big Bend area of Florida on June 13. Alberto then moved through eastern Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia as a tropical depression before becoming extratropical on June 14.

Tropical Storm Bertha (2002) Atlantic tropical storm in 2002

Tropical Storm Bertha was a minimal tropical storm that made landfall twice along the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2002. The second tropical storm of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season, Bertha developed in the northern Gulf of Mexico out of a trough of low pressure that extended into the Atlantic on August 4. It quickly organized and reached tropical storm strength before making landfall on southeastern Louisiana. Bertha turned to the southwest over the state, and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico on August 7. It remained disorganized due to proximity to land, and after making landfall on south Texas, Bertha dissipated on August 9.

Effects of tropical cyclones effect of cyclone

The main effects of tropical cyclones include heavy rain, strong wind, large storm surges near landfall, and tornadoes. The destruction from a tropical cyclone, such as a hurricane or tropical storm, depends mainly on its intensity, its size, and its location. Tropical cyclones act to remove forest canopy as well as change the landscape near coastal areas, by moving and reshaping sand dunes and causing extensive erosion along the coast. Even well inland, heavy rainfall can lead to mudslides and landslides in mountainous areas. Their effects can be sensed over time by studying the concentration of the Oxygen-18 isotope within caves within the vicinity of cyclones' paths.

Severe weather

Severe weather refers to any dangerous meteorological phenomena with the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption, or loss of human life. Types of severe weather phenomena vary, depending on the latitude, altitude, topography, and atmospheric conditions. High winds, hail, excessive precipitation, and wildfires are forms and effects of severe weather, as are thunderstorms, downbursts, tornadoes, waterspouts, tropical cyclones, and extratropical cyclones. Regional and seasonal severe weather phenomena include blizzards (snowstorms), ice storms, and duststorms.

The maximum sustained wind associated with a tropical cyclone is a common indicator of the intensity of the storm. Within a mature tropical cyclone, it is found within the eyewall at a distance defined as the radius of maximum wind, or RMW. Unlike gusts, the value of these winds are determined via their sampling and averaging the sampled results over a period of time. Wind measuring has been standardized globally to reflect the winds at 10 metres (33 ft) above the Earth's surface, and the maximum sustained wind represents the highest average wind over either a one-minute (US) or ten-minute time span, anywhere within the tropical cyclone. Surface winds are highly variable due to friction between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, as well as near hills and mountains over land.

Tropical Storm Carlos (2003) Pacific tropical storm in 2003

Tropical Storm Carlos was the first of five tropical cyclones to make landfall during the 2003 Pacific hurricane season. It formed on June 26 from a tropical wave to the south of Mexico. It quickly strengthened as it approached the coast, and early on June 27 Carlos moved ashore in Oaxaca with winds of 65 mph (100 km/h). The storm rapidly deteriorated to a remnant low, which persisted until dissipating on June 29. Carlos brought heavy rainfall to portions of southern Mexico, peaking at 337 mm (13.3 in) in two locations in Guerrero. Throughout its path, the storm damaged about 30,000 houses, with a monetary damage total of 86.7 million pesos. At least nine people were killed throughout the country, seven due to mudslides and two from river flooding; there was also a report of two missing fishermen.

Glossary of tropical cyclone terms Wikimedia glossary list article

The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.

Tropical Storm Beryl (2012) Atlantic tropical storm in 2012

Tropical Storm Beryl was the strongest off-season Atlantic tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in the United States. The second tropical cyclone of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Beryl developed on May 26 from a low-pressure system offshore North Carolina. Initially subtropical, the storm slowly acquired tropical characteristics as it tracked across warmer sea surface temperatures and within an environment of decreasing vertical wind shear. Late on May 27, Beryl transitioned into a tropical cyclone less than 120 miles (190 km) from North Florida. Early the following day, the storm moved ashore near Jacksonville Beach, Florida, with peak winds of 65 mph (100 km/h). It quickly weakened to a tropical depression, dropping heavy rainfall while moving slowly across the southeastern United States. A cold front turned Beryl to the northeast, and the storm became extratropical on May 30.

Hurricane Franklin

Hurricane Franklin was the first hurricane to make landfall in the Mexican state of Veracruz since Hurricane Karl in 2010. The sixth named storm, first hurricane and the first of ten consecutive hurricanes of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Franklin formed on August 7 out of a tropical wave that was first tracked in the southeastern Caribbean Sea on August 3. The storm strengthened within a favorable environment and made landfall on the Yucatán Peninsula as a moderate tropical storm early on August 8 north of Belize. Weakening occurred as it crossed the peninsula, but Franklin re-emerged into the Bay of Campeche later that day, restrengthening quickly to become the season's first hurricane. It made landfall near Lechuguillas, Veracruz, on August 10 as a Category 1 hurricane, before rapidly weakening over the mountainous terrain of Mexico and dissipating shortly afterwards. On August 12, the storm's remnant mid-level circulation combined with a developing low in the Eastern Pacific to form Tropical Storm Jova.

Tropical Storm Alberto (2018) The first named tropical weather system of the 2018 hurricane season

Tropical Storm Alberto was a deadly pre-season tropical cyclone that caused $125 million in damage to the Gulf Coast in late May 2018. The first storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Alberto developed on May 25 near the Yucatán Peninsula as a subtropical cyclone. As it entered the Gulf of Mexico, Alberto intensified and transitioned into a tropical cyclone. Early on May 28, Alberto reached its peak intensity, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) and a minimum pressure of 990 mbar. Afterward, however, dry air caused Alberto to weaken before it made landfall near Laguna Beach, Florida, with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). Alberto maintained a compact area of thunderstorms as it progressed through the central United States, entering southern Michigan as a tropical depression on May 31. That day, Alberto weakened further and dissipated over Ontario.

Tropical Storm Gordon (2018) Atlantic tropical storm in 2018

Tropical Storm Gordon was a tropical cyclone of moderate intensity that caused damage along the Gulf Coast of the United States in early September 2018. The seventh named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Gordon developed from a tropical wave that was first monitored in the Caribbean Sea on August 30. The wave moved west-northwestward toward the east coast of Florida while gradually organizing. The disturbance was marked as Potential Tropical Cyclone Seven on September 2 while near the Bahamas, and early the next day, it became Tropical Storm Gordon. The system made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida shortly afterwards. Steady intensification began after it moved off the coast of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. Gordon reached its peak intensity as a high-end tropical storm late on September 4 before making landfall just east of Pascagoula, Mississippi shortly afterwards. Gordon then rapidly weakened as it tacked inland, and degenerated into a remnant low on September 6. Gordon's remnants lingered over Arkansas for two days, before opening up into a low-pressure trough on September 8. At least three deaths were attributed to the storm, and Gordon caused approximately $200–250 million in damages, making it the third-costliest tropical cyclone in the United States for the 2018 season.


  1. Definition of 'Landfall' in Cambridge Dictionary.
  2. National Hurricane Center (2009). Glossary of NHC Terms: Landfall. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  3. Sim Aberson and Chris Landsea (2008). [ Subject : C2) Doesn't the friction over land kill tropical cyclones?] Archived 2009-05-06 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  4. National Hurricane Center (2009). Glossary of NHC Terms: Direct Hit. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  5. Glossary of Meteorology (2009). Waterspout. Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  6. Bruce B. Smith (2009). Waterspouts. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.