Hurricane, cyclone or typhoon: What’s the difference?

This image provided by the National Hurricane Center National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a satellite view as Hurricane Fiona moves up the United States Atlantic coast, Thursday night, Sept. 22, 2022. (NOAA via AP)

(NewsNation) — Hurricane Fiona wrecked havoc on Puerto Rico earlier this week, before transforming into a post-tropical cyclone when it made landfall in Canada on Saturday.

While the term “hurricane” and “cyclone” both refer to a tropical system, their different names are based on the region where they form and exist in, according to NewsNation local affiliate KXAN.

A tropical cyclone, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a generic term given to a low-pressure system that “formed over tropical waters (25°S to 25°N) with thunderstorm activity near the center of its closed, cyclonic winds.” These cyclones get their energy from vertical temperature differences and have a warm core, according to NOAA.

Tropical systems with winds that exceed 39 mph are called storms and are then given a name, as Fiona did. Once these winds go over 74 mph, that’s when a cyclone becomes designated as a hurricane or typhoon.

A hurricane, according to NASA and NOAA, develops over the North Atlantic, Northeast Pacific Ocean, or South Pacific Ocean. Cyclones form over the Southwest Pacific and the Indian Ocean, while typhoons are in the Northwest Pacific.

Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean spans from June 1 to Nov. 30, according to NOAA. In 2022, the administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicted a 65% chance of having an above-normal season. It predicted a 25% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.

So far this season, the New York Times reports, there have been nine named storms. NOAA is forecasting a likely range of 14 to 21 named storms in 2022.

One of these storms, Ian, is tracking toward Florida and has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall.


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