It’s likely you’ve heard of the natural phenomena known as hurricanes or typhoons. But what you don’t know is that they’re essentially the same phenomenon with different names. There are a few differences between them, though.
One major difference is that typhoons are generally much stronger than hurricanes because they have stronger winds. This is a result of them having ample time to gain strength before they hit land. However, hurricanes can still cause major structural damage.
Keep reading below for more information.
About Tropical Cyclones
Tropical cyclones, also known as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones, are large, circular storms that develop over warm water and have sustained winds of more than 74 miles per hour. However, various regions of the world have varying names for these kinds of storms.
A hurricane can develop anywhere there is warm water, including the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The northwestern Pacific Ocean is where typhoons form, typically striking Asian countries.
When a hurricane moves from the eastern to the western side of the Pacific Ocean, it passes the international date line to turn into a typhoon.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the same types of storms go by different names: A tropical cyclone develops in the region of the southern Indian Ocean or the South Pacific. (Don’t forget that the term “tropical cyclone” can refer to any of these storms.)
The Bay of Bengal, or the Arabian Sea, located in the northern Indian Ocean, also experiences cyclone development. Although destructive, these storms serve a useful purpose in the global climate system by redistributing warm air from the tropics to the poles.
Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones all have distinct seasons and various names. The official Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. The Pacific region enjoys a brief head start on the season. Even though typhoons can form at any time of the year, the peak season is from May to October.
The season starts two weeks later in the southern Indian Ocean and continues for the same time, except for in the island nations of Mauritius and the Seychelles, where it starts on May 15. Although there is no set season for cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean, most of these storms occur between May and November.
As their strength is derived from the vaporization of the ocean water below them, tropical cyclones typically weaken as they approach land. However, they can penetrate deep into the land before dissipating, where they can cause widespread destruction via high winds, heavy rains, and flooding.
If the sustained winds of a storm are between 39 and 73 miles per hour but not quite strong enough to be classified as a tropical cyclone, we refer to it as a tropical storm. When winds are weaker than that, they are called tropical depressions after the low pressure at their centers.
For more information about tropical cyclones, watch this video below:
What’s With All the Different Names?
Meteorologists typically just use the term “cyclone” when referring to these storms. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “hurricane” was initially coined in 1848 to classify a severe storm that hit India in 1789. The term is derived, in part, from the Greek word “kyklon,” which means “moving in a circle, whirling around.”
The term first appeared in the Americas with the arrival of the Spanish during the 15th and 16th centuries; the Spanish term for hurricane is huracán. Typhoon derives from the Arabic, Persian, and Hindi word “Toofan,” which also means “big cyclonic storm.” The term entered English through contact with the natives of southwest and southern Asia.
Hurricanes Vs. Typhoons
Wind gusts, abundant rain, and flash floods are the results of these intense storms, whatever you choose to call them. And if you are situated in a part of the planet where cyclones (or hurricanes or typhoons) are common, a recent study discovered that global warming is increasing the likelihood of the greatest and most intense of these storms.
The future will be chaotic regardless of whether we live in an area prone to typhoons, hurricanes, or cyclones.
Any tropical cyclone that forms between the International Date Line and the Greenwich Meridian in the Northern Hemisphere is referred to as a hurricane. Typhoons are tropical cyclones that form in the Pacific Ocean between 100E and 180E latitude in the northern hemisphere.
According to some sources, hurricanes can move in either direction, but typhoons can only move in the anticlockwise direction.
Are Hurricanes or Typhoons Stronger?
Typhoons are significantly more powerful than hurricanes. This is because the water temperatures in the western Pacific create favorable storm conditions. Typhoons are more common because of the ocean’s ability to hold an infinite supply of warm water.
Despite stronger winds than hurricanes, Typhoons typically result in less damage because they are less likely to make landfall. On the other hand, they are both measured by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Are Hurricanes Dangerous?
Although typhoons are generally stronger than hurricanes, don’t be mistaken about the potential damage that a hurricane can cause.
Hurricanes can cause a wide range of damage once they make landfall. When a hurricane hits land, it frequently generates a catastrophic storm surge, which is characterized by ocean water being pushed ashore by the wind. This surge of water can reach heights of up to six meters (20 feet) and move several kilometers inland.
A 2014 study found that 75 percent of deaths caused by Atlantic tropical cyclones were the result of storm surges and flooding. Drowning was responsible for approximately a third of the deaths that occurred as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall off the coast of Louisiana in 2005 and claimed the lives of nearly 1,200 people.
Damage from Hurricane Katrina was $125 billion, making it the most expensive hurricane ever recorded.
The destructive winds of a hurricane can also give rise to tornadoes. Flooding and landslides, brought on by the torrential downpour, can cause additional damage even hundreds of kilometers inland.
There have been extremely powerful storms in the Atlantic, but the most prominent tropical cyclones recorded have developed in the Pacific because there is more time for them to become powerful before they hit land.
In 2015, Hurricane Patricia set a new record for maximum sustained winds with 346 km per hour (215 miles per hour) as it developed in the eastern Pacific off the coast of Guatemala. In 2005, the Atlantic was hit by Wilma, the single most powerful storm on record, with winds of 294 kilometers per hour (183 miles per hour).
Regardless of which natural phenomenon is stronger, you must stay prepared for both. If you live in a region at risk of experiencing a typhoon or hurricane, take the appropriate measures.