Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina. High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)
If you've never lived in Asia… you might be wondering what it feels like to experience a typhoon. But if you've ever survived a hurricane or cyclone… you already know the answer.
That's because hurricanes… cyclones and typhoons are all the same weather phenomenon. Meteorologists just call these storms different names depending on where they occur.
In the Atlantic and eastern north Pacific… the storms are called hurricanes. In the western north Pacific… the same powerful storms are called typhoons. In the southern hemisphere… in the Indian Ocean and western south Pacific, they are called cyclones.
To be classified as a hurricane… typhoon or cyclone… a storm must reach wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour.
If a hurricane's winds reach speeds of 111 miles per hour… it is then upgraded to a major hurricane.
If a typhoon hits 150 miles per hour then it becomes a super typhoon.
In the Atlantic, hurricane season officially runs June 1 to November 30.However, while 97 percent of tropical activity occurs during this time period, there is nothing magical in these dates, and hurricanes have occurred outside of these six months.
In the eastern north Pacific… the official season runs from May 15 to November 30. In the western north Pacific… typhoons are most common from late June through December. And the Indian Ocean sees cyclones from April to December.
The ingredients for these storms include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans... moisture and relatively light winds. If the right conditions persist long enough... they can combine to produce the violent winds... incredible waves... torrential rains and floods we associate with this phenomenon.