What's the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons?

  • 29 March 2017
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BBC weather presenter Simon King explains what hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are

Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all tropical storms. They are all the same thing but are given different names depending on where they appear.

When they reach populated areas they usually bring very strong wind and rain which can cause a lot of damage.

Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific.

Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Typhoons are formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

Why do storms have names?

Image copyright National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Tropical storms last a long time and are given names so they can be identified quickly.

The first storm of a year will have a name beginning with A, such as Hurricane Alice, and the next one gets a name beginning with B.

Weather scientists hold meetings to decide on new names for the next year.

Names of storms which cause a lot of damage are never used again.

What happens in a tropical storm?

Image copyright AP
Image caption Typhoons can whip up big waves

Air rises quickly when it is heated by warm sea water.

As the air cools down again it is pushed aside by more warm air rising below it.

This cycle causes strong winds. Tropical storms have winds faster than 73 miles an hour.

What damage do tropical storms cause?

Image copyright AP
Image caption This home in the Philippines was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan

Over the sea a tropical storm can whip up huge waves.

When these waves reach land they can flood large areas, including towns and cities.

Over land the strong winds can cause a lot of damage - they can flatten homes, knock over trees and even tip over cars.

Tropical storms usually die out after a few days over land because there is no warm sea water there to power them.

What is a state of emergency?

In times of great danger, perhaps following a natural disaster like a cyclone, the government can declare a state of emergency.

This means the government stops performing its day-to-day duties and instead focuses on solving the situation.

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