A Storm by any other name

Published on September 27th, 2021

by Adam Cort, SAIL
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hurricanes (the term most U.S. sailors are familiar with) and typhoons are just two different names for the same weather phenomenon: tropical cyclones, i.e., “a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation.”

In the words of NOAA’s Ocean Weather service: “The weakest tropical cyclones are called tropical depressions. If a depression intensifies such that its maximum sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour, the tropical cyclone becomes a tropical storm. Once a tropical cyclone reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, it is then classified as a hurricane, typhoon or tropical cyclone, depending upon where the storm originates in the world.

“In the North Atlantic, central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific, the term hurricane is used. The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a typhoon. In the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the generic term tropical cyclone is used, regardless of the strength of the wind associated with the weather system.”

As a reminder, the official Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 isn’t over until November 30, and storms can continue to form after that—so be sure to keep an eye on the forecast, and be careful out there!

Editor’s note: There does seem to be eagerness among news reporters in North America to prematurely jump to the hurricane term as we sense names which include tropical don’t get the same attention.

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