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As the nation enters hurricane season, test your knowledge on coastal storms with this short quiz!

Tropical storms, hurricanes and other large coastal storms can affect seaside and inland communities and ecosystems with strong winds, high storm tide, erosion and flooding. These forces can destroy buildings, roads and bridges and reshape the nation’s coastline. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are dedicated to studying coastal storms so robust data are available to the people who need it. 

Take this quiz – just seven questions – to see if you know the breadth of science that goes into understanding storms and their potential impacts to help protect communities. 


1. Which of the following is the name of a hurricane in 2022?

a) Ida  
b) Ian  
c) Isaias
d) Isaac

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

Landsat 7 Captures Hurricane Ian Aftermath
This visual, which uses Landsat 7 imagery, shows brownish-black sediment runoff from rivers and streams on the southwest coast of Florida following Hurricane Ian in 2022. The Landsat Program is jointly managed by the USGS and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Water runoff can carry away debris, fertilizers, metals and other pollutants.

The correct answer is b) Ian. The 2022 season produced 18 hurricanes in the North Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific Oceans, with some resulting in impacts to the nation. Hurricane Ian was a Category 5 storm and the most damaging to the U.S. that year. The USGS monitors potential impacts from a range of storms along all coastlines in the contiguous U.S. as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.


2. What part of a hurricane is generally the most damaging? 

a) Front
b) Middle
c) Left
d) Right

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

Screen shot of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal showing potential coastal change impacts from Hurricane Ida in 2021.
Screen shot of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal showing potential coastal change impacts from Hurricane Ida in 2021.

The correct answer is d) right. While all parts of a hurricane can be dangerous, winds are usually stronger on the right side based on the direction the storm is moving. That knowledge, combined with other insight, can help the USGS forecast potential impacts to coastlines such as where sand dunes could be eroded and inundated by storm tide and waves. Those forecasts are available through the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Portal. The projections are created using detailed USGS data, including the shape and elevation of beaches, in combination with surge, wind, wave and other projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. 


3. The USGS has studied hurricanes that occurred how long ago?

a) 170 years 
b) 4,000 years 
c) 13,000 years 

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

USGS scientist Jessica Rodysill studies a sediment core to help understand past environmental conditions. This core was collected from Maryland.
USGS scientist Jessica Rodysill studies a sediment core to help understand past environmental conditions. This core was collected from Maryland. Credit: Elizabeth Goldbaum, USGS. 

The correct answer is c) 13,000 years ago. Most existing records on hurricanes that are used to help forecast storms date back to 1851, which is just over 170 years ago. The USGS and partners are looking beyond that by several thousands of years. Knowing what has happened in the past gives insight on potential storm intensity and occurrence in the future. This research can help inform organizations developing climate and hurricane models as well as policy makers and managers as they prepare adaptation and mitigation plans to protect communities.  


4. What is one characteristic of an extratropical (versus a tropical) storm? 

a) They have warm air at their core 
b) They have cold air at their core 

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

Extratropical Typhoon Merbok
Extratropical Typhoon Merbok spins off the Alaskan coast. Credit: National Weather Service.

The correct answer is b) they have cold air at their core. Extratropical storms typically occur at higher latitudes and can include snow or freezing rain. Tropical and subtropical storms, on the other hand, have warm air at their core and typically form over warmer ocean waters. Extratropical Typhoon Merbok, which struck Alaska in September 2022, began as a warm tropical storm that transitioned to an extratropical storm as it moved north. During that storm, scientists collected some of the highest water levels for any coastal storm in Alaska. Those recordings, known as high-water marks, are documented by USGS scientists and partners to help determine the extent and depth of flooding and give insight on what communities could be at risk in the future. 


5. How many invasive species could have spread to new locations following flooding from Hurricane Ian in 2022? 

a) 2 
b) 47 
c) 63
d) 212 

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

Blue tilapia
Blue tilapia, an invasive species that potentially spread to new locations in Florida following Hurricane Ian.

The correct answer is c) 63. The flooding in Florida from Hurricane Ian could have moved 152 non-native species to new locations in the state, with 63 of those known to be invasive species that can negatively impact ecosystems and the economy. The USGS creates maps to track which non-native and invasive species could potentially be transported by floodwater. The maps can help natural resource managers identify at-risk areas and develop watchlists to look out species of concern. Learn more about the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Flood and Storm Tracker Maps


6. True or false? Hurricanes can cause water to recede and temporarily leave beaches bare. 

a) True 
b) False 

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

After Hurricane Ian, USGS scientist retrieves a USGS storm surge sensor.
After Hurricane Ian, USGS safety and occupational health specialist Sean Raabe retrieves a USGS storm surge sensor at Fernandina Beach, Florida. Photograph taken October 5, 2022. Credit: Hannah Flynn, USGS.

The correct answer is a) true. While most hurricanes and intense coastal storms produce flooding as they move onshore, there are instances when strong winds can push water away from the coast. Dry beaches aren’t always safe, as winds can quickly change direction. Abnormally low tide can also temporarily dry out wetlands and estuaries, and low water conditions can leave ships stranded and interfere with activities such as cargo transportation. Prior to a hurricane making landfall, USGS field crews may install storm-tide sensors on bridges, piers and other structures along a storm’s projected path. Those sensors record the timing, extent and height – both high and low levels – of storm tide. 


7. How frequently can USGS sensors collect wave data?   

a) 16 times per second  
b) Every 30 seconds   
c) Every 13 minutes   

Scroll down below the image to see the answer.

View of destroyed buildings from the coast
Buildings destroyed during Hurricane Maria in Rincón, Puerto Rico. Photograph taken August 28, 2021, almost four years after the hurricane.

The correct answer is a) 16 times per second. On average, the USGS collects wave data such as wave height four times per second during storms, but there is the potential to collect information up to 16 times per second when needed. This information can help determine what areas are most vulnerable to flooding, waves and other storm impacts. The USGS Flood Event Viewer displays these data as well as readings from additional USGS instruments, including streamgages that monitor water levels and flow in the nation’s rivers and streams. The public can sign up to receive updates about water conditions in a location of interest through the USGS WaterAlert system.

Start with science 

The USGS works with many partners to monitor storm tide and waves, forecast changes to the coast, observe rivers and streams, measure flooding, create detailed maps of at-risk areas, assess the potential spread of non-native species and provide an array of other resources and tools for situational awareness. USGS science helps storm forecasters, emergency responders, communities, resource managers and other decision-makers prepare for, cope with and recover from storms. 

Prior to the start of hurricane season, or for advice on how to build an emergency kit or prepare for a range of disasters and emergencies, people can visit or

When is hurricane season? 
Hurricane season in the Eastern North Pacific officially begins May 15 and ends November 30, while the North Atlantic and Central North Pacific begins June 1 and ends November 30. While hurricanes are of most concern during those months, storms can occur outside of hurricane season in any given year.  

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