Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's the difference between a cyclone, hurricane, typhoon, and tornado?

With the stories of the cyclone that hit Burma, I decided I needed to confirm or change my understanding of what a cyclone is compared to hurricanes and typhoons. After reading a several websites, the Times of India had the most succinct explanation that seemed consistent with what I read elsewhere.

What is the difference between cyclone, hurricane, tornado and twister?

Technically, a cyclone is any kind of circular wind storm. But now, it is only used to describe a strong tropical storm found off of the coast of India. Hurricanes and Typhoons are the same thing, but in different places. On the coast of Florida it is called hurricane. In the Philipines, it is called typhoon. Hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and typhoons, in the Pacific. Basically, hurricanes and typhoons form over water and are huge, while tornados form over land and are much smaller in size. A tornado is a violent windstorm characterised by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. In the United States, twister is used as a a colloquial term for tornado.

— Pradeep Jain, Agra

For a glossary of hurricane related terms, check the National (US) Hurricane Center.

The Hurricane Research Center of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab has Hurrican FAQs in English, Spanish, French, and German.

Both are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) so they have links to other weather related information as well. [I'm also testing blogspot's new "scheduling posts dated in the future" feature. Let's see if this is posted at 8:29am May 13.]

And I can't mention the cyclone in Burma without some comment on the evil of the ruling clique there. There isn't much we can do now, though complaining to elected officials and Chevron wouldn't hurt. But this is an example of the world letting this boil fester for years and years. Anyone who wants to know, has known that these leaders have badly used the people of Burma to enrich themseles and whatever twisted power needs they have. China is a major enabler of these activities - lots of Chinese goods pass across their border with Burma - as are corporations like Chevron that take advantage of the slave labor arranged by the Burmese military.


  1. do you know the earthquake in Wenchuan of China on May 12?


  2. That is a very succinct explanation but not only in India are these called cyclones. In Australia we also refer to them only as cyclones.

  3. Thanks Pete for the addition. Maybe it's because it was an Indian writing that. Are Australian cyclones just on the west coast? If that were the case, then they'd come from the Indian Ocean wouldn't they? I guess that would be technically off the coast of India. :) I'm just fishing on that one.

  4. No Steve, cyclones are on common on the east, north and west coasts of Australa.
    I did'nt think the Indian Times definition was very accurate at all.

  5. Anon, I think there's a typo there

    "cyclones are on common on the east..."

    Do you mean uncommon? I'm assuming that's in answer to my response to Pete.

    I did look at a number of sites before picking the India Times response to post. It seemed to be the most succinct description and was consistent with what others wrote. What specific problems did you have with it?

  6. This only tells about a small amout of information

  7. Perhaps you've not heard of Australia? We have cylcones here- we actually call them cyclones and name each one. Cyclone Tracy for instance, wiped out a whole city.

  8. Anon, Oct. 30, 2012 - Australia did get discussed in the comments.


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