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Cyclones: An Explainer




What are Cyclones?


Cyclones are large, low-pressure weather systems that can produce strong winds and heavy rain. They are typically associated with tropical and subtropical regions and are most common in the late summer and early fall.

There are two main types of cyclones: tropical cyclones and extratropical cyclones.


  • Tropical cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons depending on the region, are intense, circular storms that form over warm ocean water. They are characterized by strong winds, heavy rain, and often by a clear, circular eye at the center of the storm.


Tropical cyclones can be very destructive, causing widespread damage and flooding when they make landfall.

  • Extratropical cyclones, also known as mid-latitude cyclones or frontal cyclones, are large, low-pressure weather systems that form over land or over the ocean outside of the tropics.


They are typically associated with cold fronts and warm fronts and are characterized by strong winds and heavy precipitation. Extratropical cyclones can produce a variety of weather conditions, including rain, snow, sleet, and thunderstorms.

Cyclones are often named to help identify and track them, and they are usually given names based on a predetermined list that is specific to each region. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, for example, tropical cyclones are given names based on a list maintained by the World Meteorological Organization. Cyclones can also be classified by their intensity, with categories ranging from tropical depression to Category 5 hurricane, depending on the region.

Classification of Cyclones


Cyclones are named differently depending on the region in which they occur. Here are a few examples:

  • Atlantic and Northeast Pacific: In these regions, tropical cyclones are given names based on a list maintained by the World Meteorological Organization. The list consists of a set of predetermined names that are assigned in alphabetical order, with names alternating between male and female. For example, the first tropical cyclone of the season might be named "Ana," the second might be named "Bill," and so on. If a tropical cyclone is particularly destructive or deadly, its name may be retired from the list and replaced with a new name.


  • Northwest Pacific: In this region, tropical cyclones are called typhoons and are given names based on a list maintained by the Japan Meteorological Agency. The list consists of a set of predetermined names that are assigned in alphabetical order, with names alternating between male and female. For example, the first typhoon of the season might be named "Atsani," the second might be named "Bavi," and so on. If a typhoon is particularly destructive or deadly, its name may be retired from the list and replaced with a new name.


  • South Pacific and Indian Ocean: In these regions, tropical cyclones are called cyclones and are given names based on a list maintained by the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centers in the region. The list consists of a set of predetermined names that are assigned in alphabetical order, with names alternating between male and female. For example, the first cyclone of the season might be named "Ana," the second might be named "Bilo," and so on. If a cyclone is particularly destructive or deadly, its name may be retired from the list and replaced with a new name.


  • Southwest Indian Ocean: In this region, tropical cyclones are called cyclones and are given names based on a list maintained by the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center in Reunion. The list consists of a set of predetermined names that are assigned in alphabetical order, with names alternating between male and female. For example, the first cyclone of the season might be named "Amara," the second might be named "Bessie," and so on. If a cyclone is particularly destructive or deadly, its name may be retired from the list and replaced with a new name.

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