What is the difference between a Typhoon and Hurricane?

A Typhoon named Hagibis hit Japan Saturday leaving at least one person dead.

The news immediately began trending on Twitter and Google as people around the world offered prayers and support for those in the storm’s path and wanted to learn more about the storm.

One of the common questions from Americans when a typhoon hits Japan is how is a typhoon different from the hurricanes we are familiar with. The explanation for this one isn’t too nuanced. There is no scientific difference between a typhoon and a hurricane.

The difference is based on location and language. A hurricane in the western hemisphere is called a hurricane and a hurricane in the eastern hemisphere is called a typhoon. If a hurricane happens in the region of the Indian Ocean and South Pacific we call that a cyclone.

As far as the scientific community is concerned, these are all called tropical cyclones, which is the technical term for these highly destructive storms.

Regardless of what you call it, hurricanes and typhoons are not designated as such until the storm reaches wind speeds of 74 miles per hour, which makes it a category 1 storm. The categories go up to 5 at the highest, which means the storm has reached wind speeds of more than 156 miles per hour.


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