What are cyclones


Among all the meteorological phenomena that occur on our planet, there are some that attract special attention: cyclones. There are several types, each with its own characteristics that make it a phenomenon to be admired.

But how are they formed? If you want to know everything about them, don't miss this special.

 What is a cyclone?

In meteorology, cyclone can mean two things:

  • Very strong winds that occur in places where atmospheric pressure is low. They advance in great circles that revolve around themselves, and originate from the coasts, usually tropical.
  • Low pressure atmospheric region where abundant rainfall and intense winds occur. It is also known as a storm, and on weather maps you will see it represented with a "B".
    The anticyclone is the opposite, that is, a region of high pressure that brings us good weather.

types of cyclones

There are five types of cyclones, which are:

 Tropical cyclone

tropical cyclone

It is a rapidly rotating whirlpool that has a low pressure center (or eye). It produces strong winds and abundant rain, drawing its energy from the condensation of humid air.

It develops, most of the time, in the intertropical regions of the planet, on warm waters which register a temperature of about 22ºC, and when the atmosphere is a bit unstable, giving rise to a low pressure system.

In the northern hemisphere it rotates counterclockwise; On the other hand, in the southern hemisphere it rotates backwards. In either case, it produces extensive damage to coastal areas due to torrential rains which in turn cause storm surges and landslides.

Depending on its strength, it is called a tropical depression, tropical storm, or hurricane (or typhoons in Asia). Let's see its main features:

  • Tropical depression: the wind speed is a maximum of 62km / h, and can cause serious damage and flooding.
  • Tropical storm: the wind speed of between 63 and 117km / h, and its heavy rains can cause major flooding. Strong winds can generate tornadoes.
  • Hurricane: It is renamed a hurricane when the intensity exceeds the tropical storm classification. The wind speed is a minimum of 119km / h, and can cause serious damage to the coasts.

Hurricane Categories

Hurricanes are cyclones that can be very devastating, so it is essential to know them in order to take the necessary measures and thus avoid the loss of human life.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale distinguishes five categories of hurricanes:

  • 1 Category: the wind speed is between 119 and 153km / h. It causes flooding along the coasts, and some damage to ports.
  • 2 Category: the wind speed is between 154 and 177km / h. It causes damage to roofs, doors and windows, as well as in coastal areas.
  • 3 Category: the wind speed is between 178 and 209km / h. It causes structural damage in small buildings, especially in coastal areas, and destroys mobile homes.
  • 4 Category: the wind speed is between 210 and 249km / h. It causes widespread damage to protective structures, the roofs of small buildings collapse, and beaches and terraces erode.
  • 5 Category: the wind speed is more than 250km / h. It destroys the roofs of buildings, heavy rains cause flooding that can reach the lower floors of buildings in coastal areas, and evacuation of residential areas may be necessary.

 Benefits of tropical cyclones

Although they can cause serious damage, the truth is that they are also very positive for ecosystems, such as the following:

  • They can end periods of drought.
  • The winds generated by a hurricane can regenerate the vegetation cover, removing old, diseased or weak trees.
  • It can bring fresh water to estuaries.

 Extratropical cyclone

Tropical depression

Stratropical cyclones, also known as mid-latitude cyclones, are located in the middle latitudes of the Earth, between 30º and 60º from the equator. They are very common phenomena that, together with anticyclones, move time over the planet, producing as little cloudiness.

They are associated with a low pressure system that occurs between the tropics and the poles, and depend on the temperature contrast between warm and cold air masses. It should be noted that if there is a noticeable and rapid decrease in atmospheric pressure, they are called explosive cyclogenesis.

They can form when a tropical cyclone enters cold waters, which can cause serious damage, such as floods o landslides.

Subtropical cyclone

tropical storm

It is a cyclone that has characteristics of the tropics and extratropical. For example, the subtropical cyclone Arani, formed on March 14, 2011 near Brazil and lasted for four days, had gusts of wind of 110km / h, so it was considered a tropical storm, but formed in a sector of the Atlantic Ocean where tropical cyclones do not usually form.

Polar cyclone


Also known as an Arctic cyclone, it is a low pressure system with a diameter between 1000 and 2000 km. It has a shorter life than that of tropical cyclones, since it only takes 24 hours to reach its maximum.

Generates strong winds, but it does not usually cause damage since they form in sparsely populated areas.



It's a air vortex, between 2 and 10 km in diameter, which is formed within a convective storm, that is, the air rises and rotates on a vertical axis. It is usually associated with a localized region of low pressure within a thunderstorm, which can generate strong surface winds and hail.

If the right conditions exist occurs along with promotions in supercells, which are nothing more than immense rotating storms, from which a tornado could form. This incredible phenomenon is formed in conditions of high instability, and when there are strong winds at high altitudes. To be able to see them, it is advisable to go to the Great Plains of the United States and the Pampean Plains of Argentina.

And with these we end. What did you think of this special?

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