Add a mixture of low pressure in the atmosphere and strong winds over the warm waters of the world and you have a recipe for tropical storms. North of the equator, the strong winds are counter-clockwise, and south of the equator the winds are clockwise. It is almost like a mirror image of each other. No matter where the storm originates, it starts out as a tropical depression and, with enough moisture and wind, will develop into a tropical storm. As the storm builds and becomes stronger it is a tropical cyclone. The cyclone has a low-pressure center, rain bands and strong winds – they are interesting when viewed from a satellite picture, as you can observe a whirling dervish type of dance as the storm swirls over the ocean. A cyclone is a closed system, fueled as moist air rises from the ocean creating a warm core of the storm as the moisture condenses. The Caribbean or the China Sea have the warm temperature conditions to create most of these phenomenal storms. When the weatherperson speaks of these storms, they describe them as a tropical storm, cyclone, hurricane or typhoon. What is the difference, if they are all closed system storms with a warm core, rain bands and winds? Basically, they are all a tropical cyclone, but depending on where the storms originated, they take on different names. The storm type originates in various waters so there is a delineation of the International Dateline that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole to mark the difference between the Eastern and Western Hemisphere. Therefore, the Dateline marks the regions’ specific names for these strong storms. To simplify all this geography, just think of the oceans: Indian Ocean – cyclone; Eastern Pacific – typhoon; South Pacific and Western Atlantic – hurricane. It all seems a tad confusing, but hang on to your caps, because there are rules and guidelines for naming these storms, as well. In the mid-1900s, the meteorologists started to give the storms names for tracking purposes on the weather map and informing the public. Before a storm can be named, it must obtain certain conditions to reach the strength of a tropical storm. Next, determine where (geographically) it formed. The National Hurricane Center names the storms in the Atlantic and South Pacific. The list of names is alphabetical, beginning with the letter A, and then the names alternate between male and female. If a name is used for a powerful disaster like Katrina, it is retired. To avoid confusion, the current list is used every six years. Each area around the world uses different methods. The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization maintains the names of each ocean basin. Could a storm get more complicated? Modern times, more paperwork! Leave it to the government to make even the weather confusing!!
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