HURRICANE - A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in which the maximum average wind speed near a centre or eye exceeds 74 mph or 119 Km/h.
Share |

What is the difference between a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical cyclone?

The terms "hurricane" and "typhoon" are simply different names which all refer to a tropical cyclone. Different names are used depending on the country you are in. A tropical cyclone is the generic term used by the World Meteorological Center to define weather systems developing over tropical or subtropical waters in which winds exceed 39 mph.

  • "hurricane" (Atlantic and Eastern Pacific)
  • "typhoon" (Western Pacific)
  • "tropical cyclone" (the Southwest Indian Ocean)

What is storm surge vs. storm tide?

What is the origin of the word "hurricane"?

The word hurricane originated from 'Hurican', the Carib god of evil. The Carib god 'Hurican' was derived from the Mayan god 'Hurakan', one of their creator gods, who blew his breath across the waters and brought forth dry land and later destroyed the men of wood with a great storm and flood. ( sourced from

What is a tropical disturbance, a tropical depression, or a tropical storm ?

  • Tropical Disturbance
    A weather system which gives rise to a specific area of cloudiness with embedded showers and thunder storms
  • Tropical Depression
    A tropical cyclone system with definite counter-clockwise wind circulation with maximum sustained winds of less than 38 mph. At this stage the system is given a number.
  • Tropical Storm
    When a tropical depression has intensified to the point where its maximum sustained winds are between 39-73mph, it becomes a tropical storm. At this stage it is given a name.
  • Hurricane
    When winds in a tropical cyclone equal or exceed 74 mph, it is called a hurricane. Hurricanes are placed in categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricanes in categories 3, 4, 5 are known as Major Hurricanes.

What is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale?

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used to classify hurricanes according to intensity. It groups hurricanes in terms of their potential to create property damage and flooding. (place link here to classification of hurricanes where the Saffir Simpson Scale has already been provided)

What is the "eye"? What is the "eyewall"? What are "spiral bands"?

The "eye" is a roughly circular area of comparatively light winds and fair weather found at the center of a severe tropical cyclone. Although the winds are calm at the axis of rotation, strong winds may extend well into the eye. There is little or no precipitation and sometimes blue sky or stars can be seen. The eye is the region of lowest surface pressure and warmest temperatures Eyes range in size from 8 km [5 mi] to over 200 km [120 mi] across, but most are approximately 30-60 km [20-40 mi] in diameter(Weatherford and Gray 1988, The "eyewall" is located just outside the “eye”. It is the area of highest surface winds in the tropical cyclone and causes the most damaging winds and intense rainfall.

How do tropical cyclones form?

Here are 5 factors which are required to the development of a tropical cyclone.

  • A warm sea temperature in excess of 26 degrees celcius
  • A high relative humidity (degree to which air is saturated by vapour)
  • A location of at least 4-5 latitude degrees from t he Equator
  • Relatively light winds in the upper levels that do not change much in direction or speed throughout the atmosphere. (

How are tropical cyclones named?

Hurricanes are given names because this makes them easier to track and identify. Hurricanes are named alphabetically, and each year the first hurricane or storm will have a name starting with “A” and so on; however there are no hurricanes which have names starting with “Q, U, X, Y or Z”. To date there are 6 lists of names generated by the National Hurricane Centre and updated by the World Meteorological Organization. These 6 lists rotate continually, therefore the list for 2012 will be the same list used in 2006, except if a name on the list has been retired. Names on the hurricane lists can be retired if they were used to mark devastating hurricanes. As such a new hurricane name will replace the old one. An Australian forecaster early in the 20th century was the first person to give hurricanes names. He gave tropical cyclone names "after political figures that he disliked”.

During a hurricane are you supposed to have the windows and doors on the storm side closed and the windows and doors on the lee side open?

No! Keep all of the doors and windows closed and shuttered during the hurricane. The pressure differences between inside your house and outside in the storm do not build up enough to cause any damaging explosions.
The winds in a hurricane are extremely dangerous and an open window or door - can be an portal to flying debris and cause injury to you or your loved ones.

Should I tape my windows when a hurricane threatens?

Taping offers little strength to the glass and zero protection against flying objects. It does not prevent shattering and it leaves glued residue which is often very difficult to remove.

When is Hurricane season?

In the Atlantic, hurricane season occurs during the period June 1 through November 30th and  in the Pacific, May 15th through November 30th.

When are storms most likely to occur?

Typically, they tend to occur more frequently during the months of August, September and October.

For more frequently asked questions feel free to visit



Back to top

Hurricane season in the Atlantic lasts from June 1st to November 30th.
Tropical storms are given male and female names because this makes them easier to track. Before 1979 though, they only had female names.
A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph or higher.
Hurricanes are grouped into 5 categories according to their strength. Category 5 hurricanes are the strongest.
The “eye” is the centre of the hurricane and is the calmest part.
Slow moving hurricanes produce more rain and can cause more damage from flooding.
Putting tape on windows and glass will not stop them from breaking during a hurricane.
The word hurricane comes from the word Hurakan. Hurakan is the name of the Mayan god of wind and fire.