AUSTIN (KXAN) — It is a common misconception that hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones are all vastly different types of storm systems, but why is that? The answer is actually quite simple. The different names are entirely based on the region that the tropical system forms and exists in.
While each term refers to a tropical system in general, “hurricanes” and “typhoons” represent a specifically stronger type of tropical system. A “tropical cyclone” on the other hand is a much more overarching term used to refer to any type of tropical system.
According to NASA and NOAA, “A tropical cyclone is the generic term for a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection (i.e. thunderstorm activity) and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation (Holland 1993).”
The term “tropical cyclone” is used to describe tropical systems in the Southwest Pacific Ocean as well as the entire Indian Ocean region. “Hurricane” is used in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. “Typhoon” however, is used exclusively in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, west of the International Date Line.
Tropical cyclones that meet the criteria of hurricanes and typhoons can be referred to as “severe tropical cyclones” or “very severe cyclonic storms”. Despite the varying nomenclature, hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones are all names for the same type of storm.