What Happens When Two Hurricanes Collide?

Typhoon Parma (left) and Melor (right) dancing around each other in the Philippine Sea back in October 2009. NASA

On other occasions, the hurricane merger can fail and ricochet both to completely different directions to the paths they were originally on. Back in 1974, Hurricanes Kristen and Ione met up, but resisted each other and ending up bouncing apart, with the former being dragged northwest and the latter heading northeast.

Infrequently, you get a mix of both. Back in 1995, four tropical waves formed in the Atlantic, which all eventually became storms – Humberto, Iris, Karen, and Luis. To some extent, the first three interacted with each other and influenced their formations and paths. Iris ultimately merged with Karen.

It’s possible that two tropical cyclones can emerge to become briefly more powerful, as their combined warm water vapor loads could fuel more precipitation formation and lower the central pressure even more – but it’s unclear whether this has ever happened in real life.

What’s more likely is that a hurricane dances around a stronger one, fails to merge, and as a result gets stronger itself. This took place in 2014, when Tropical Storm Karina spun around Hurricane Lowell and became a hurricane for some time – before eventually being cannibalized by Hurricane Marie.

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In any case, hurricane mergers are rare. It happens roughly once a year in the Western Pacific, but once every few years in the Atlantic. This rarity, along with the fact that they become far more unpredictable when they collide, makes mergers potentially very dangerous – so it’s a good thing plenty of them result in a disruptive, rather than an empowering, effect.

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