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Hurricane vs. Typhoon: What’s the difference?

Both weather phenomena are deemed tropical cyclones

Satellite image of Super Typhoon Usagi, taken by Japan Meteorological Agency's MTSAT-2 satellite and provided by the NOAA.
Satellite image of Super Typhoon Usagi, taken by Japan Meteorological Agency's MTSAT-2 satellite and provided by the NOAA. (2013 NOAA)

You’ve surely heard the term “typhoon,” but have you ever wondered how it differs from a hurricane?

The two aren’t completely unalike, as both weather phenomena are deemed tropical cyclones, but according to the National Ocean Service, there’s one significantly notable distinction between the two: Where in the world each originates.

The weakest tropical cyclone is called a tropical depression. Once the maximum sustained winds intensify to 39 mph, it becomes a tropical storm. Furthermore, once that storm reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher, it then becomes classified as a hurricane, typhoon or tropical cyclone, depending where in the world you are.

Of course, here in the North Atlantic, we use the term “hurricane,” as well as in the central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific.

In the Northwest Pacific, the exact same disturbance is called a typhoon.

In the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, the weather system is called a tropical cyclone regardless of the strength of wind.

While hurricane season in the U.S. technically runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, typhoons mostly develop between May and October. Each can occur outside their respective windows.


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