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The Difference Between Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones

A Simple Longitudinal Answer


Hurricane Earl Heads Toward U.S. Coast
NASA/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Question from a reader

I thought that Hurricanes were limited to the Atlantic Ocean, and Typhoons or Cyclones limited to the Pacific. The stress of Hurricane Flossie hitting Hawaii really confused me. Who's right??
Diane from WA

Hurricanes can and do occur in the Pacific ocean. The name 'hurricane' is really just a common named for a tropical cyclone. This type of storm is commonly called a cyclone, hurricane, or typhoon. And, if the strength of the storm is not too intense, we call them tropical depressions or tropical storms. It can all sound very confusing, but the answer is in the longitude where the storm occurs.

Eastern Pacific Hurricanes

If a tropical cyclone occurs somewhere between 140 degrees West and the western coast of the United States, we call it an Eastern Pacific hurricane. The National Hurricane Center is responsible for these storms. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is a component of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) located at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. (If you are not sure exactly where 140 degrees west is located, go to the map.)

Central Pacific Hurricanes

A tropical cyclone occurring between 140 and 180 degrees are called Central Pacific hurricanes. According to the Weather Doctor, this designation is mostly due to a change in the forecast center responsible for forecasting the storms.


West of 180 degrees, the Japanese Meteorological Agency takes over in tracking the storms in the region. Now, the name designation is typhoon.


A cyclone is both the name for the whirling, organized storms we call a hurricane or typhoon as well as the name for storms in the Indian ocean.

Reference: The Weather Doctor Almanac

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