NPR : News

Which Is It? Hurricane, Typhoon Or Tropical Cyclone?

What's the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon and a cyclone? Nothing more than location.

As Super Typhoon Haiyan slams into the Philippines, we here at the Two-Way found ourselves revisiting old ground about the nature of tropical storms. In case you need a refresher (as we did), here is the lowdown:

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are all rotating storms spawned in the tropics. As a group, they can be referred to as tropical cyclones. Because of the Coriolis effect, these storms rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Beyond that, what you call a particular tropical cyclone has everything to do with where it happens to form:

Hurricanes are in the Atlantic and Northern Pacific. So, the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and the Caribbean, as well as (less frequently), the U.S. and Mexican west coasts, all get hurricanes.

The National Hurricane Center says:

"Tropical cyclones forming between 5 and 30 degrees North latitude typically move toward the west. Sometimes the winds in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere change and steer the cyclone toward the north and northwest. When tropical cyclones reach latitudes near 30 degrees North, they often move northeast."

When a tropical cyclone forms in the western Pacific between 180 degrees and 100 degrees East longitude, it's called a typhoon. So, Japan, China, the Philippines, etc., get typhoons.

Tropical cyclones that hit the southeastern Indian Ocean or the southwestern Pacific (where they spin clockwise) are all called tropical cyclones, or simply cyclones. So, north of the equator, India and Bangladesh get tropical cyclones, as does Australia in the Southern Hemisphere.

National Geographic notes:

"While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, the typhoon and cyclone seasons follow slightly different patterns.

"In the northeastern Pacific, the official season runs from May 15 to November 30. In the northwestern Pacific, typhoons are most common from late June through December. And the northern Indian Ocean sees cyclones from April to December."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

When Caravaggio Plays Quevedo In Tennis, The Court Becomes A Sonnet

"It's a little space, well-measured and precise, in which you have to keep the ball bouncing," says Álvaro Enrigue. His book, Sudden Death, pits the Italian painter against the Spanish poet.
WAMU 88.5

Does "Made in DC" Matter?

D.C.'s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Undone Chocolate, got its start in local food incubator space Union Kitchen, part of a wave of interest in locally made products which includes a push for a "Made in DC" logo.

WAMU 88.5

Does "Made in DC" Matter?

D.C.'s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Undone Chocolate, got its start in local food incubator space Union Kitchen, part of a wave of interest in locally made products which includes a push for a "Made in DC" logo.

NPR

Password Security Is So Bad, President Obama Weighs In

In unveiling a sweeping plan to fund and revamp cybersecurity, the president asks citizens to consider using extra layers of security besides the password.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.