Understand the Difference: Typhoon vs Hurricane

By: HowStuffWorks  | 
typhoon vs hurricane
Typhoons and hurricanes are both tropical cyclones, named based on the region they occur: Pacific vs. Atlantic. Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Images

When disaster strikes, knowing the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane can be crucial in understanding the risks and preparing for the potential impact. In this blog post, we will delve into the distinctions between these two powerful weather phenomena, focusing on the topic of “typhoon vs hurricane.” We will explore the factors that contribute to their formation, intensity, and global patterns. By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of typhoons and hurricanes, allowing you to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your property.

Short Summary

  • Typhoons and Hurricanes are both tropical cyclones with the primary distinction being their geographical location.
  • Hurricanes are classified using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, while Typhoons have a less specific classification system based on wind speed.
  • Climate change is likely to decrease frequency of tropical cyclones but increase intensity due to warming ocean temperatures.


Defining Typhoons and Hurricanes

At their core, typhoons and hurricanes are both intense tropical cyclones that form over warm tropical oceans and bring torrential rains, strong winds, and potentially catastrophic damage to coastal and inland areas.

The primary difference between these two weather systems lies in their geographical location.


Tropical Cyclones: The Parent Category

Typhoons and hurricanes are both types of tropical cyclones. Tropical depressions and tropical storms also fall under this category. All of these weather events are characterized by their warm-core low pressure system and destructive windstorms that form over tropical or subtropical waters.

While typhoons and hurricanes both fall under the umbrella of tropical cyclones, they differ in terms of their geographic location and wind speeds.

Geographic Differences

The key difference between a typhoon and a hurricane is their location. Typhoons form in the northwest Pacific Ocean, while hurricanes occur in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific Oceans.

There have been instances when a storm has transitioned from a hurricane to a typhoon or vice versa, such as the 2014 storm Genevieve, which was classified as a super typhoon after moving from the central Pacific to the northwest Pacific Ocean.


Analyzing Wind Speeds

Wind speed is a critical element in assessing the strength and classification of both typhoons and hurricanes. These weather systems typically have maximum sustained wind speeds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or greater.

The eye of a hurricane, which is the low-pressure center the storm revolves around, can provide valuable information about the storm’s intensity and potential impact.


Sustained Wind Speeds

Maximum sustained wind speeds are used to categorize hurricanes and typhoons. For instance, a tropical storm is an intensification of a tropical depression, with sustained wind speeds between 39-74 mph, whereas a tropical depression has wind speeds below 39 mph.

The classification of a hurricane’s category is based on the speed of the winds in the storm, ranging from:

  • Category 1 with winds from 74-95 mph
  • Category 2 with winds from 96-110 mph
  • Category 3 with winds from 111-129 mph
  • Category 4 with winds from 130-156 mph
  • Category 5 with sustained winds of at least 157 mph.

Comparing Hurricane Categories and Typhoon Intensities

The categorization systems for hurricanes and typhoons are quite different. Hurricanes are classified using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranks storms into categories 1 through 5, based solely on maximum sustained wind speed.

Typhoons, on the other hand, have a less specific classification system, with “super typhoon” being the only distinction. For example, a Category 5 hurricane has wind speeds of over 157 miles per hour, while a super typhoon has similar wind speeds but occurs in the northwest Pacific Ocean.


Seasonal Occurrences and Patterns

The typhoon and hurricane seasons typically occur during the summer and fall months, with peak times varying depending on the location. The Atlantic hurricane season generally runs from June 1 to November 30, while the typhoon season in the northwest Pacific Ocean is usually active from May to November, and the South Pacific experiences its own cyclone season as well.

On average, five to six hurricanes occur in the Atlantic Ocean per year.


Notable Hurricanes and Typhoons

Some of the most significant and destructive hurricanes and typhoons in history include:

  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Hurricane Sandy
  • Hurricane Maria
  • Hurricane Wilma
  • Great Bhola Cyclone
  • Hooghly River Cyclone
  • Haiphong Typhoon
  • Coringa Cyclone

These notable weather events have caused catastrophic destruction, resulting in the loss of life, property, and disruption of essential services.


Preparing for Typhoons and Hurricanes

Staying informed, having an emergency plan, and stocking up on essential supplies are crucial steps in preparing for and responding to both typhoons and hurricanes. Keeping abreast of local news, tracking weather forecasts, and enrolling in emergency alerts are all viable options for staying informed about these weather events.

An emergency plan should encompass evacuation routes, emergency contact information, and a protocol for securing one’s home. It is recommended to have an adequate supply of food, water, flashlights, batteries, and first aid supplies.


Climate Change and the Future of Tropical Cyclones

The potential effects of climate change on the frequency, intensity, and distribution of typhoons and hurricanes around the world are still being studied. Research has indicated that there has been a 13% decrease in the frequency of tropical cyclones since pre-industrial times, but the intensity of tropical cyclones is likely to increase due to the warming of the surface ocean caused by climate change.

Higher sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, which can influence the formation and behavior of tropical cyclones, are expected to be a result of climate change.



In conclusion, understanding the differences between typhoons and hurricanes is essential for better preparing for and responding to these natural disasters. While both weather events are types of tropical cyclones, they differ in geographical location, wind speeds, and classification systems. With the potential impact of climate change on the frequency and intensity of these storms, staying informed and prepared is more important than ever.

This article was created using AI technology.