What is a Cyclone? How is it different from a hurricane?

Columbus (WCMH) – Cyclone Debbie making landfall in the Queensland state in northeast Australia, I am getting about what is a “Cyclone”


First, Debbie had reached Category 4 strength as far as the winds:

This would put winds at 130mph sustained or greater, and it was reported that the storm had wind gusts of more than 160mph.   It was the strongest storm to hit in nearly 6 years, since Cyclone Yasi back in early February of 2011.


What is the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon, and a [tropical] cyclone?

They are considered cyclones in a sense, and are tropical in nature, with winds sustained at 74 mph or greater.  The key difference is Location!

Hurricanes are found in either the Atlantic basin (Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean included), or in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from just west of Hawaii to the North American/Central American coast.  They are mostly (almost always) found in the northern hemisphere and spin counter clockwise.


Typhoons are found from west of Hawaii over towards the Asian coastline.  Name lists are different here, just how the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic have different names.  Names on this list start with Typhoon or Super Typhoon.


Cyclones as they are named, are generally found in the Indian Ocean Basin, or the South Pacific Basins where the water is warm enough to support a tropical system.


One key difference of Cyclones vs Typhoons and Hurricanes:

In a way, the name Cyclone for a tropical system can allow the storm to spin clockwise (southern hemisphere) or counter-clockwise (northern hemisphere).  Since the name Cyclone is used in basins (or areas of water) in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, a Cyclone can spin both ways (just not in the same hemisphere).

Hurricanes since they are mainly found in the Northern Hemisphere, like Typhoons spin counter-clockwise, just like low pressure systems over land.

On record, one Hurricane, Hurricane Catarina did form in the Southern Atlantic in March of 2004, hitting Brazil, and yes this would be a clockwise spinning hurricane!!!


If you ever have questions about tropics, or any other type of system or weather, email me: dmazza@wcmh.com


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