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What’s the difference between hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones?

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Posted at 2:45 PM, Jul 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-16 14:45:55-04

It’s been an active tropical season in some parts of the world so far this year.

While we’ve only seen three named storms in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin, there have already been five named storms across the Eastern Pacific.  And in Japan, Typhoon Nangka made landfall late Thursday evening, bringing damaging winds and flooding rain.

With this activity going on, some NewsChannel 3 viewers have asked about the difference between hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.  So, let’s talk about it.

Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are actually the same weather phenomenon.  Yes, that’s right.  They just have different names in different parts of the world.

In fact, in the Atlantic, the Central and Eastern Pacific, the term hurricane is used.  The same system in the Western Pacific Basin is called a typhoon.  And in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the term cyclone is used.

Now, here’s something that’s interesting.  Storms that have sustained winds of 39 mph in the Atlantic, Central and Eastern Pacific are called tropical storms.  They’re also called tropical storms in the Western Pacific.  However, once the storm reaches sustained winds of 74 mph in the Western Pacific, the storm is then called a typhoon instead of a hurricane.

So, what happens if a hurricane moves from the Central or Eastern Pacific into a different basin, like the Western Pacific?  Well, according to The Weather Channel, that storm would then take on the tropical name appropriate for that region.  For example, if Hurricane Dominic crossed the International Date Line (180 degrees W Longitude) and moved into the Western Pacific, it would then be called Typhoon Dominic.

Make sure you stay with NewsChannel 3 for continuous weather updates.

Sources for this story: NOAA, The Weather Channel