"The State of The World" Number 24
Complete Index Of All Issues
The Origin Of Hurricanes, Cyclones and Typhoons
Tropical cyclones are powerful storms that form over warmed ocean waters. The storms typically rotate ("cyclone" is from a Greek word that means to circle) around a central low-pressure area known as the "eye."
Their rotary motion is caused primarily by the rotation of the Earth - wind direction is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere due to the natural "Coriolis force" (named after the French physicist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, 1792-1843).
What is the difference between a cyclone, a typhoon and a hurricane? They are simply the traditional terms used in different parts of the world for a tropical cyclone.
- A hurricane is the term given to a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean. "Hurricane" originated from a native-American word that meant a violent storm. The word was later adopted by English, Spanish, French and Dutch explorers to the Americas.
- A typhoon is the term given to a tropical cyclone that occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. "Typhoon" originated from a Chinese word that meant a great wind.
- A cyclone is the term given to a tropical cyclone that occurs in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean. The Greek-language origin of the word indicates the effect of Greek sea exploration in ancient times.
Regardless of the term used for them, the storms can be extremely damaging and deadly if they come ashore in a highly populated area. Unfortunately, the modern world has numerous large coastal cities waiting their turn for such a storm to strike.