Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the eastern United States. A powerful typhoon, Jebi, tore through Japan last week, and another one, brewing in the Pacific, is headed for the Philippines and Taiwan. Earlier this year, Cyclone Mekunu killed more than 30 people in Yemen and Oman.
What makes a storm a hurricane, a typhoon or a cyclone? It comes down to location. They all refer to tropical cyclones — low-pressure circular storm systems with winds greater than 74 miles per hour that form over warm waters — but different terms are used in different parts of the world.
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The word “hurricane” is used for tropical cyclones that form in the North Atlantic, northeastern Pacific, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Typhoons are storms that develop in the northwestern Pacific and usually threaten Asia.
The international date line serves as the Pacific Ocean’s dividing marker, so when a hurricane crosses over it from east to west, it becomes a typhoon instead, and vice versa.
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