Typhoon, cyclones or hurricanes?

The latest reports from South Korea and Japan inform us that thousands of households were left without electricity after the Typhoon Haishen swept all over the countries. Typhoon, cyclones and hurricane: what are the differences? Let’s find out, as always, together.

Definition and how they form

In short, we could summarize that there is no real difference between a typhoon, a cyclone and a hurricane. Meteorologists use different names to determine the geographical location of these extreme events. They all are tropical storms and depending on where they occur we name them accordingly.

  • Hurricanes are tropical storms formed over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific. The first travel east, against the Earth’s rotation, while the latter travel along the west coast of USA, all the way down to Central America.
  • Cyclones are tropical storms formed over the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
  • Typhoons are tropical storms formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

Giving the location of South Korea and Japan, it is clear that the recent storm events in the area go under the name of Typhoons.

A typhoon forms when winds blow into areas of the ocean where the water is warm. These winds collect moisture and rise, while colder air moves in below. This creates pressure, which causes the winds to move very quickly. This is the reason why they bring along disruption and, in some extreme cases, destruction. Winds can blow over 70/80 mph during a typhoon.

Why are oceans warmer in some parts?

This open to another important concept to bear in mind: the salinity and density of water across the oceans are not regular so we have in return cold, dense and salty water in depth and warmer water on the surface. The water is moved around the Globe by the ocean belt conveyor that works exactly like the one we are used to seeing at the airport while nervously waiting for our luggage. The difference is that here we don’t have mechanic energy generated by electricity: the water moves around because salty water is dense and falls to the bottom of the ocean floor while warmer water arises.

Did you notice anything strange?

Unlike the Earth, oceans are warmer on the surface and colder on the bottoms. On the other hand, our planet is much hotter in his nucleus, while the surface is relatively warmer and allow life to bloom. This could be explained because the sun rays are unable to reach the deepest part of the ocean, where the water is thick and salty, while the surface is more or less directly hit by them.

However, if we fully accept this theory, the surface of the Earth should be hotter because is directly hit by the sun rays, that are unable to go through layers and layers of clay, rocks and gases. Is the Earth’s surface warmer than the nucleus? Absolutely not!

The Earth gets hotter and hotter at depth primarily because the energy of radioactive decay is leaking outwards from the core of the planet. However, this energy is unable to heat up the ocean floor consistently, therefore we see how colliding parts of our planet coexist in a perfect balance that allows life to prosper the way we know it, the way we love it.

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