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Types of Tropical Cyclones - Windows to the Universe

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Storm Strength

A cyclone is an area of low pressure with winds blowing counter-clockwise around it in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise around it in the Southern Hemisphere. A tropical cyclone is a cyclone which forms in the tropics--imagine that.

Tropical cyclones are given different names to show how fast their winds are. Here is a list of the different names given to the storms:

Tropical Disturbance: Winds weak and unorganized
Tropical Depression: Winds less than 39 mph
Tropical Storm: Winds 39 to 74 mph
Hurricane: Winds greater than 74 mph

Also, meteorologists use the wind speed as one indicator as to how much damage a hurricane can do. Knowing what may be damaged lets officials know what areas they should evacuate.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF