What are cyclones?

Cyclones (or more properly called Tropical Cyclones) are a type of severe spinning (rotating) storm that occurs over the ocean near the tropics.

The word "Cyclone" just means 'turning wind with one eye. It relates to the word "Cyclops" that one eyed creature in an Ancient Greek story.


Tropical Cyclone Bonnie
Image Courtesy of NASA

Tropical Cyclones have a number of characteristics like:

  • They must have a wind speed greater than 119km/h
  • They start in  or near the tropics.

The meteorological symbol for a cyclone

Did you know that cyclones are actually the release of stored solar energy that rotates. The sun heats the ocean up and this creates the condition for a tropical cyclone to develop.

Cyclones spin because the Earth is spinning. It's due to something called the Coriolis effect.

Did you know?

Cyclones are called hurricanes around the US. 

Cyclones are called typhoons near the South China sea (from the chinese word meaning 'big wind' )

The direction they spin depends on which hemisphere they are in.

In the Southern hemisphere they spin in a clockwise direction and Northern hemisphere they spin in an anti-clockwise direction.

Explore more about Cyclones below:

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