Scientists Say: Hurricane or typhoon?

Depending on where it develops, the same storm can be described using different names

Hurricane Irene made landfall over New York City in 2011. If the same storm had headed toward Tokyo, it would have been called a typhoon.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Hurricane (noun, “HER-ih-kane”) and Typhoon (noun, “Ty-FOON”)

These two words refer to the same weather event, just in different locations. Both hurricanes and typhoons are tropical cyclones. These rotating storms, accompanied by heavy rain, rev up strong winds of 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour or more. When one of these storms develops in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s called a hurricane. In the Pacific or Indian Ocean, it’s now a typhoon.

In a sentence

As Earth warms due to climate change, stronger typhoons may result. Sea-level rise means that floods in the United States can happen even during calm weather, no hurricane necessary.

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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 Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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