Tracking hurricane Sandy: As storm 'zigs,' it's also changing dramatically
Indeed, the full range of winds associated with Sandy spans a diameter of more than 1,000 miles.
Sandy intensified slightly Monday morning as it passed over a sliver of warm water associated with the Gulf Stream. Atmospheric pressure at the center of Sandy – a key measure of the storm's strength – has hit a low of 27.85 inches, or 943 millibars. If Sandy retains that reading, or it drops further, at landfall, the location would go into the record books as experiencing the lowest barometric pressure of any spot in the US north of Cape Hatteras, according to data compiled by the Weather Underground.
As of 11:00 a.m., the center of Sandy was located some 213 miles southeast of Cape May, N.J.
Sandy's pending shift to an extratropical cyclone comes as the storm trades heat sources.
Tropical storms and hurricanes draw their energy from warm seawater in the tropics. The water evaporates and rises. As the water vapor rises, cools, and condenses to form the storm clouds, the heat needed to evaporate the water in the first place returns to the atmosphere. The heat reinforces the cloud-building process, especially at the storm's core. Thus, warm cores are the hallmark of tropical cyclones.