By Kimberly Holland
May 23, 2019
Prairie Pictures/Getty Images

Just like in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.

Both typhoons and hurricanes are tropical cyclones: storms that are rotating, organized, and form over tropical or subtropical waters. They have a closed eye around which the storm turns.

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The name used to describe the storm varies by region. In the north Atlantic, north central Pacific, and eastern north Pacific oceans, the storm is called a hurricane.

In the northwest Pacific, the storm is known as a typhoon. The International Date Line divides typhoon from hurricane regions.

In the south Pacific and Indian Ocean, a storm is known simply as a tropical cyclone, regardless of the strength of the winds or intensity of the storm.

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For the northern hemisphere storms, terms may change as the cyclone intensifies. The weakest tropical cyclone is known as a tropical depression. These loosely formed storms may intensify and become more organized. When they have maximum sustained winds at 39 miles per hour, tropical depressions become tropical storms.

When a tropical depression strengthens with maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour, the cyclone is classified as a hurricane or a typhoon, depending on where the storm is in the world.

The Saffir-Simpson scale determines the strength of both hurricanes and typhoons, from 1 through 5. The number rises as the strength of the winds intensifies.

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A category 4 or 5 cyclone is frequently called a super typhoon. It is exceptionally powerful and frequently stronger than a category 5 hurricane because the south Pacific Ocean’s waters are warmer than the Atlantic.

The northern Pacific typhoon season stretches all year, with the majority of storms developing between May and October. The Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. The South Pacific cyclone season falls between November 1 and April 30. The vast majority of hurricanes develop in these windows, though it’s not unusual to have a few form early or late, especially in the Pacific region.

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If a cyclone forms in one part of the ocean but crosses into an area that uses a different name, the storm’s identifier will change. For example, in 2014, Hurricane Genevieve, which formed southeast of Hawaii, moved across the International Date Line and was reclassified as a typhoon. It became a category 5 super typhoon before weakening and disintegrating northwest of the Hawaiian islands, without making landfall.