Is it true that hurricanes desalinate sea water? If so, would you explain how this happens?
— Margaret Robertson, Chicago
A significant source of a hurricane’s energy comes from the evaporation of sea water and then the condensation of that evaporated water back into cloud droplets. Evaporation transfers heat energy into the evaporated water and condensation releases that heat into the air.
That’s what powers the storm. Only pure water evaporates from the sea surface. Other materials (such as salts) do not evaporate — they remain in the sea.
Consider that the violent winds of a hurricane whip a great deal of spray from the sea into the air, and the spray, originating with the sea, is salty. Spray carried inland by the wind carries salt with it.