What Is A Typhoon?

An estimated 2 million people were evacuated along China’s eastern coast in advance of yesterday’s landfall of Typhoon Wipha. The news reports on Wipha have prompted some people to ask me the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane. The definitions are the same. The terms “typhoon” and “hurricane” are simply regional names for a strong tropical cyclone with sustained winds of at least 74 mph. A tropical cyclone is the generic term (see September 6th blog for the definition of tropical ! cyclone).

Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 39 mph are called “tropical depressions.” Once the tropical cyclone reaches winds of at least 39 mph they are typically called a “tropical storm” and assigned a name. If winds reach 74 mph, then they are called:

  • “hurricane” (the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the dateline, and the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E)
  • “typhoon” (the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline)
    “severe tropical cyclone” (the Southwest Pacific Ocean west of 160E and Southeast Indian Ocean east of 90E)
  • “severe cyclonic storm” (the North Indian Ocean)
  • “tropical cyclone” (the Southwest Indian Ocean)
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  • One thought on “What Is A Typhoon?

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