Brain Post: What’s the Difference Between a Typhoon and a Hurricane?

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Hurrican Isabel as viewed from space

With the recent land fall of Super Typhoon Haiyan and the associated media you may be wondering to yourself what’s the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane.  Below are the brief definitions of both:


A tropical cyclone in the Indian or Northwest Pacific Ocean.


 A tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific.

Tropical Cyclone:

A localized, very intense low-pressure wind system, forming over tropical oceans and with winds of hurricane force.

They are in fact essentially the same thing, both being a Tropical Cyclone.  The only real difference resides in where the storm is located.  In order to be classified as either a Hurricane or Typhoon, the system must have sustained winds of at least 34 meters per second (66 kn) or 74 miles per hour (119 km/h).  They are often characterized by a low-pressure center (the eye of the storm), and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms producing significant amounts of rainfall.

Discovery breaks down the distinctions in this quick two minute video:

For more information about Tropical Cyclones and their characteristics, check out the Tropical Cyclone Wiki page.

typhoon over china
Yeah, they can be pretty big…

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