We hear much about tropical cyclones, but just what are they? Recognized as a storm system with a center of a low pressure, tropical cyclones rapidly rotate. They are characterized by strong winds and thunderstorms which may contain heavy rain. They begin over bodies of water with warm temperatures and are energized as the water evaporates over the surface, forming clouds that produce rain after it has condensed. Within the northern hemisphere, cyclones rotate counterclockwise. Categorized by various terms, these cyclones have different names, given according to their strength.

Tropical Depressions

Maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less mark this category of tropical cyclone.

Tropical Storms

Maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots) is considered the tropical storm form of a cyclone.

Hurricanes

Called typhoons in the western Northern Pacific and cyclones in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, hurricanes are tropical cyclones with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.

Major Hurricanes

Maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher are the mark of these tropical cyclones. They are measured by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to determine if they are Category 3, 4 or 5.

Cyclone names have been determined several years in advance and make use of a diverse range of male and female names. Having originated with the National Hurricane Center in 1953, Atlantic names are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by the international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. One can find lists of names through the year 2019 for the Atlantic region; these names will be recycled every 6 years. Only in the event of a deadly storm will a name be retired, as many will be sensitive to that name for quite a while. Offending names are taken off the list and replaced with another starting with the same initial.

The official season of the Atlantic Basin, which consists of Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico is from June 1st to November 30th. Peak season is from mid-August through late October, as shown by hundred-year cycles.

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