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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

Typhoon Hagibis making both of its landfalls in Japan Hagibis 2019 both landfalls.gif
Typhoon Hagibis making both of its landfalls in Japan

A tropical cyclone is classified as making landfall when the center of the storm moves across the coast; in a relatively strong tropical cyclone 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. When a tropical cyclone makes landfall, the eye usually closes in upon itself due to negative environmental factors over land, such as friction with the terrain , which causes surf to decrease, and drier continental air. 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 may be 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, minor storm surge, coastal erosion, high winds, and possibly severe thunderstorms with tornadoes around the periphery.

Hurricane Isaias making landfall in North Carolina Hurricane Isaias at US landfall.gif
Hurricane Isaias making landfall in North Carolina

Storms, e.g., tropical cyclones, can be quite large. Potentially, dangerous winds, rain and flooding may impact an area near the center of the storm, 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 landmasses 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. 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, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere as viewed from above. 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.

Hurricane Ophelia (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 memorable 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.

Hurricane Danny (1997) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane

Hurricane Danny was the only hurricane to make landfall in the United States during the 1997 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second hurricane and fourth tropical storm of the season. The system became the earliest-formed fifth tropical or subtropical storm of the Atlantic season in history when it attained tropical storm strength on July 17, and held that record until the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season when Tropical Storm Emily broke that record by several days. Like the previous four tropical or subtropical cyclones of the season, Danny had a non-tropical origin, after a trough spawned convection that entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Danny was guided northeast through the Gulf of Mexico by two high pressure areas, a rare occurrence in the middle of July. After making landfall on the Gulf Coast, Danny tracked across the southeastern United States and ultimately affected parts of New England with rain and wind.

Tropical Storm Arlene (2005) Atlantic tropical storm in 2005

Tropical Storm Arlene was an unusually large and early-forming tropical storm, being the first of twenty-eight different storms during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which would become the second most active season on record. Tropical Storm Arlene formed near Honduras on June 8 and moved northwards. It crossed western Cuba on June 10 and strengthened to just under hurricane strength before making its final landfall on the Florida Panhandle the next day. The storm weakened as it continued to move north over the United States, becoming extratropical on June 13. Arlene was responsible for only one death and minor damage.

Tropical Storm Alberto (2006) Atlantic tropical cyclone

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 Helene (2000)

Tropical Storm Helene was a long-lived tropical cyclone that oscillated for ten days between a tropical wave and a 70 mph (110 km/h) tropical storm. It was the twelfth tropical cyclone and eighth tropical storm of the 2000 Atlantic hurricane season, forming on September 15 east of the Windward Islands. After degenerating into a tropical wave, the system produced flooding and mudslides in Puerto Rico. It reformed into a tropical depression on September 19 south of Cuba, and crossed the western portion of the island the next day while on the verge of dissipation. However, it intensified into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, reaching its peak intensity while approaching the northern Gulf Coast.

Severe weather

Severe weather is any dangerous meteorological phenomenon 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.

Tropical Storm Fay (2008) Atlantic tropical storm in 2008

Tropical Storm Fay was a strong and unusual tropical storm that moved erratically across the state of Florida and the Caribbean Sea. The sixth named storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, Fay formed from a vigorous tropical wave on August 15 over the Dominican Republic. It passed over the island of Hispaniola, into the Gulf of Gonâve, across the island of Cuba, and made landfall on the Florida Keys late in the afternoon of August 18 before veering into the Gulf of Mexico. It again made landfall near Naples, Florida, in the early hours of August 19 and progressed northeast through the Florida peninsula, emerging into the Atlantic Ocean near Melbourne on August 20. Extensive flooding took place in parts of Florida as a result of its slow movement. On August 21, it made landfall again near New Smyrna Beach, Florida, moving due west across the Panhandle, crossing Gainesville and Panama City, Florida. As it zigzagged from water to land, it became the first storm in recorded history to make landfall in Florida four times. Thirty-six deaths were blamed on Fay. The storm also resulted in one of the most prolific tropical cyclone related tornado outbreaks on record. A total of 81 tornadoes touched down across five states, three of which were rated as EF2. Damage from Fay was heavy, estimated at $560 million.

Glossary of tropical cyclone terms Wikipedia glossary

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 Sergio (2018) Category 4 Pacific hurricane

Hurricane Sergio was a powerful and long-lived tropical cyclone that affected the Baja California Peninsula as a tropical storm which caused significant flooding throughout southern Texas. Forming in late September 2018, Sergio became the eighth Category 4 hurricane in the 2018 Pacific Hurricane Season, breaking the old record of seven set by Hurricane Olaf from the 2015 Pacific Hurricane Season, which formed in mid-October. As the twentieth named storm, eleventh hurricane, and ninth major hurricane of the season, Sergio originated from a disturbance that was located over northwestern South America on September 24. The National Hurricane Center monitored the disturbance for several days as the system organized into a tropical storm on September 29. Sergio gradually strengthened for the next couple of days as it traveled west-southwestward, becoming a hurricane on October 2. The storm then turned towards the northwest as it underwent rapid intensification and an eyewall replacement cycle, before peaking as a Category 4 hurricane on October 4, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (220 km/h). The hurricane maintained peak intensity for 12 hours before undergoing a second eyewall replacement and turning towards the southwest. The system then began another period of intensification, achieving a secondary peak with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) on October 6. The next day, Sergio began a third eyewall replacement cycle, falling below major hurricane strength. At the same time, the system unexpectedly assumed some annular characteristics. Over the next few days, the cyclone curved from the southwest to the northeast, weakening into a tropical storm on October 9. Sergio made landfall as a tropical storm on October 12 on the Baja California Peninsula, and later in northwestern Mexico as a tropical depression before dissipating early on October 13.

Tropical Storm Bertha (2020)

Tropical Storm Bertha was a rapidly forming and short-lived off-season tropical storm that affected the Eastern United States in late May 2020. The second named storm of the very active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Bertha originated from a trough in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) only anticipated slight development as the trough moved over southern Florida, bringing torrential rainfall. The system rapidly organized on May 27 after it emerged into the western Atlantic Ocean, developing a small, well-defined circulation. That day, the disturbance developed into Tropical Storm Bertha east of Georgia, and a few hours later it moved ashore near Isle of Palms, South Carolina with peak winds of 50 mph (85 km/h). The storm weakened over land and dissipated late on May 28 over West Virginia.

Tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal East Pacific and Atlantic tropical storms in 2020

Amanda and Cristobal were two consecutive tropical storms that affected Central America, the central United States, and Canada in late May and early June 2020. The first tropical cyclone formed in the East Pacific and was named Amanda. Amanda regenerated into a second one in the North Atlantic named Cristobal after crossing Central America. Amanda was the second tropical depression and the first named storm of the 2020 Pacific hurricane season, and Cristobal was the third named storm of the extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, and the earliest third named storm in the North Atlantic Ocean on record. Cristobal's regeneration date in the North Atlantic eclipsed the date set by Tropical Storm Colin in 2016, which formed on June 5. It was also the first Atlantic tropical storm formed in the month of June since Cindy in 2017, and the first June tropical cyclone to make landfall in Mexico since Danielle in 2016.

Hurricane Isaias Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 2020

Hurricane Isaias was a destructive Category 1 hurricane that caused extensive damage across the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States while also spawning a large tornado outbreak that generated the strongest tropical cyclone-spawned tornado since Hurricane Rita in 2005. The ninth named storm and second hurricane of the extremely active and record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Isaias originated from a vigorous tropical wave off the coast of Africa that was first identified by the National Hurricane Center on July 23. The tropical wave gradually became more organized and obtained gale-force winds on July 28 before organizing into Tropical Storm Isaias on July 30. Isaias marked the earliest ninth named storm on record, surpassing 2005's Hurricane Irene by eight days. Isaias strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on the next day, reaching an initial peak of 85 mph (140 km/h), with a minimum central pressure of 987 mbar. On August 1, the storm made landfall on North Andros, Bahamas and subsequently weakened to a tropical storm, before paralleling the east coast of Florida and Georgia. As Isaias approached the Carolina coastline, it reintensified back into a hurricane. Soon afterward, Isaias reached its peak intensity, with maximum 1-minute sustained winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 986 millibars (29.1 inHg), before making landfall near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, at 03:10 UTC on August 4, at the same intensity. The storm proceeded to accelerate up the East Coast of the United States as a strong tropical storm, before transitioning into an extratropical cyclone over Quebec on August 5. Isaias's extratropical remnants persisted for another day, before dissipating on August 6.

Hurricane Marco (2020) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 2020

Hurricane Marco was the first of two tropical cyclones to threaten the Gulf Coast of the United States within a three-day period, with the other being Hurricane Laura. The thirteenth named storm and third hurricane of the record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Marco developed from a fast-moving tropical wave west of the Windward Islands and south of Jamaica on August 20. The fast motion of the wave inhibited intensification initially, but as the wave slowed down and entered a more favorable environment, the system developed into a tropical depression, which in turn rapidly intensified into a strong tropical storm. Due to strong wind shear, Marco's intensification temporarily halted; however, after entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on August 23, Marco briefly intensified into a hurricane, only to quickly weaken later that evening due to another rapid increase in wind shear. Marco subsequently weakened to a tropical depression before degenerating into a remnant low early on the next morning. Marco's remnants subsequently dissipated on August 26.

Hurricane Sally Category 2 Atlantic hurricane in 2020

Hurricane Sally was a destructive and slow-moving Atlantic hurricane which was the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. state of Alabama since Ivan in 2004, coincidentally on the same date in the same place. The eighteenth named storm, and seventh hurricane of the extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, Sally developed from an area of disturbed weather which was first monitored over the Bahamas on September 10. The system grew a broad area of low-pressure on September 11, and was designated as a tropical depression late that day. Early the next day, the depression made landfall at Key Biscayne, and subsequently strengthened into Tropical Storm Sally that afternoon. Moderate northwesterly shear prevented significant intensification for the first two days, but convection continued to grow towards the center and Sally slowly intensified. On September 14, a center reformation into the center of the convection occurred, and data from a hurricane hunter reconnaissance aircraft showed that Sally rapidly intensified into a strong Category 1 hurricane. However, an increase in wind shear and upwelling of colder waters halted the intensification and Sally weakened slightly on September 15 before turning slowly northeastward. Despite this increase in wind shear, it unexpectedly re-intensified, reaching Category 2 status early on September 16, before making landfall at peak intensity at 09:45 UTC on September 16, near Gulf Shores, Alabama, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 965 millibars (28.5 inHg). The storm rapidly weakened after landfall, before transitioning into an extratropical low at 12:00 UTC the next day. Sally's remnants lasted for another day as they moved off the coast of the Southeastern United States, before being absorbed into another extratropical storm on September 18.


  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.