General Question

majorrich's avatar

Is the rain from a hurricane salty when it comes ashore?

Asked by majorrich (14689points) September 16th, 2010

I was thinking about Hurricanes being a huge low pressure cell and it occurs to me, when a cell makes landfall is some of the rain brackish from seawater being drawn up into the storm?

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15 Answers

Nullo's avatar

All rainwater is fresh, since evaporation only affects water, not what’s in it.
just thought of acid rain, so maybe not?

Seek's avatar

The storm surge is salty. The rain is not.

iamthemob's avatar

Indeed – although some may make it into the atmosphere…evaporation would leave it pretty much in the ocean.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Nullo Acid rain is caused by the rain (fresh water) picking up nitrogen and sulfur oxides present in the atmosphere as it falls to earth. The oxides come from the tall smokestacks of power plants in the midwest, Ohio, etc (mostly).
If the winds of the were strong enough they could pick up some saltwater couldn’t they? Or would there be so much other rainwater it would make any oick up miniscule.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

As @Nullo has (correctly) pointed out, the evaporated water vapor is quite pure: fresh water. It’s in a gaseous state then and has no contaminants.

However, as it does precipitate as rain it picks up whatever is in the atmosphere, including whatever might be close to the ground. And since the winds of the hurricane can be quite strong, there can be a lot of blowing spume, wave tops whipped into spray and carried aloft, and residual sand grains encrusted with salt of their own, and the rain falling through that soup will pick it up and drop it. So in a sense the rain is picking up “seawater drawn up into the storm”, but not via the evaporative process.

BoBo1946's avatar

When a hurricane rages in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean, you might think since it’s churning along over such a large area of salt water, that its accompanying rain is full of salt? Same goes for our rain from storms born in the salty Pacific Ocean—why doesn’t it rain salt water here?

But it doesn’t. In fact, all the rain—no matter where in the world it is—is freshwater (mostly).

Why? It has to do with the evaporating process. When water evaporates from the ocean, only the pure H2O molecules are involved—it’s basically energy turning the water from liquid state to vapor state. The salt particles are left behind.

Scott Sistek

ETpro's avatar

I’ve been through three direct hits in my lifetime. Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Donna in 1960 and Isabel in 2003. For some reason, I never thought to run outside among the flying roofing shingles, tree limbs and other debris to taste the rain.

But we did have a tropical storm park offshore for 3 days or more, and it kicked up some heavey surf. After its winds died down, we had a fog settle in that had a distinct taste of salt in it. That lasted several days, and toward the end of it, the 26,000 Volt Transmission wires on the main street caught fire in a most spectacular fashion. Great fireballs raced from pole to pole, stopping briefly at the insulators. It burned out more than a mile of the wiring. And while it was going, it made the most terrifying sound I had heard in my young life. I came outside to see what the noise was. When I saw, all I could think of is where to run to get away from any overhead wiring or wet, salty ground.

Seek's avatar

@ETpro “I never thought to run outside among the flying roofing shingles, tree limbs and other debris to taste the rain.”

Wimp. ^_^

A bunch of friends and I went to the beach to watch Hurricane Jeanne come in. (Granted, it made first landfall on the other side of the state, and was a strong tropical storm by the time it got to us, but let’s not split hairs.) Holy crap that was fun. I could jump and fly backward ten feet. Our raincoats were pulled to pieces by the wind. We sat on the boardwalk to let the waves hit us. Got photographed for the newspaper and everything.

We went back the next day, driving around looking for fallen street signs (picked up no less than four Stop signs and one sign for Clark Avenue) and saw the boardwalk we had been sitting on was gone. It was pretty funny.

Oh, the air at the beach was pretty salty, but I figure that was more from the wind blowing around the Gulf water than the rain itself.

ETpro's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr In my senior year in High School, we had a strong tropical storm hit Virginia Beach. A group of us went body surfing. You just had to drop out of the wave before it crashed against the concrete boardwalk, because the storm surge had the surf line all the way up to it. But trust me, a direct hit by a category 3 is a whole different universe. The wind is so powerful you can’t remain standing up.

Seek's avatar

That sounds awesome. Unfortunately (?) The Tampa area hasn’t had a direct hit in over 80 years. Ah well.

ETpro's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr It was fun. Probably also stupid as a Jackass video, but hey, every kid needs that last fling before graduating high school and having to grow up.

Don’t lament being in Tampa. There’s still time to catch one of the last flights to Bermuda before Igor slams into the island. What an appropriately sinister name for a hurricane. ”More power, Igor!”

Nullo's avatar

@ETpro Is that why they always have a reporter out there screaming wind speeds into a microphone? He’s actually being used to measure them? :D
Seriously, it’s getting a bit old. “OMG I can barely stand in this wind!” Well duh, it’s a strong wind. Kinda like how the news never fails to fuss about the California wildfire. They happen every year. It’s not really news.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo I know just what you mean. But I still watch. I’m waiting for one of them to blow completely away. :-)

ETpro's avatar

Oops, glitch. Double posted.

Seek's avatar

@ETpro Almost as good as Ivan (The Terrible) a few years ago.

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