ASK TOM: The difference between a monsoon, typhoon, hurricane and a cyclone

Dear Tom, 

What is the difference between a monsoon, typhoon, hurricane and cyclone?

Agnes R. Geyer Lisle

 

 

Dear Agnes,

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are regionally specific names for tropical cyclones. They are called hurricanes in the Atlantic, eastern and southwest Pacific and Caribbean; typhoons in the northwest Pacific; and cyclones in the Indian Ocean. On October 12 Cyclone Phailin struck India with 140 mph winds killing at least 14 people. In 1991 Typhoon Thelma killed 6,000 in the Philippines. In a non-tropical sense, the term cyclone is loosely applied to tornadoes, waterspouts, and dust devils. A monsoon is a seasonal change in winds resulting from large temperature differences between land and sea. This causes a dry, land-to-sea airflow in winter to reverse to a wet, ocean-to-land wind regime in summer.

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