Scientists Say: Cyclone

Strong storms might be called hurricanes or typhoons, but these swirling storms are all actually the same

Hurricane or typhoon? They are both cyclones. 

NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Cyclone (noun, “SIGH-klohn”)

These are storms that form over tropical areas near the equator. Their strong winds rotate at speeds of more than 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. Cyclones often produce heavy rains. We often call cyclones hurricanes or typhoons in the Northern Hemisphere, and cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere.

In a sentence

Both hurricanes and typhoons are tropical cyclones.

Follow Eureka! Lab on Twitter

Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

hurricane  A tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and has winds of 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour or greater. When such a storm occurs in the Pacific Ocean, people refer to it as a typhoon.

tropical cyclone A strong, rotating storm. These usually form over tropical areas around the equator where the water is warm. Tropical cyclones have strong winds of more than 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour and usually have heavy rain. Large ones in the Atlantic are known as hurricanes. Those in the Pacific are termed typhoons.

tropics   The region near Earth’s equator. Temperatures here are generally warm to hot, year-round.

typhoon   A tropical cyclone that occurs in the Pacific or Indian oceans and has winds of 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour or greater. In the Atlantic Ocean, such storms are referred to as hurricanes.

Bethany is the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

More Stories from Science News for Students on Climate