Hurricanes are rotating weather systems with low pressure that generally occur over warm tropical oceans. Hurricanes like Ivan, pictured here in September 2004 over the Gulf Coast, were here long before we were. Our modern understanding of hurricanes depends largely on a mere century's worth of scientific study and record keeping, but the storms have been dictating the course of human history for millennia. After all, they're a part of an atmospheric system that predates the human race by billions of years.While scientists are largely left to speculate about the strength of Mesozoic Era storms, geologists have discovered evidence of Iron Age hurricanes in layers of ground sediment.

Findings such as these allow scientists to better study long-term weather patterns and possibly make better sense of current climate trends.As far as human records go, the ancient Mayans of South America made some of the earliest mentions of hurricanes in their hieroglyphics. Some point to periods of intense hurricane activity in Earth's past and worry that such trends may return. Others argue that global warming brought on by the increased production of greenhouse gasses will lead to larger hurricane zones and more powerful storms. After all, hurricanes thrive on warm, moist waters, and a warmer Earth could provide more sustenance for tropical storms.Explore the links on the next page to learn more about hurricanes and the Earth's weather, including a story about those crazy pilots who fly their planes into hurricanes.

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