ORLANDO, Fla. – Tropical storm conditions were felt across much of Southern Florida Saturday, but technically, the system wasn’t a tropical storm. The Potential Tropical Cyclone designation is a relatively new definition by the National Hurricane Center.
This designation is used to describe a disturbance that is not yet a tropical cyclone, but which poses the threat of bringing tropical storm or hurricane conditions to land areas within 48 hours.
There is a set list of meteorological criteria that has to be met for a tropical disturbance to become a tropical cyclone. The storm must have a closed, well-defined circulation at the surface while maintaining thunderstorm activity around the center.
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In the Atlantic, tropical cyclones are referred to as depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes based on maximum sustained winds. When those winds become greater than 39 mph and all of the other criteria mentioned above are met, the storm will get a name.
In the case of Potential Tropical Cyclone One, all of the thunderstorms were on the east side due to strong wind shear. The “center” has always been broad and not completely closed. It has produced tropical storm force winds, but has not met two out of the other three criteria needed to become a tropical cyclone and get a name.
While still unorganized Sunday morning, hurricane hunter air aircraft determined the disturbance’s center closed off and tightened up enough to be meteorologically classified as a tropical system. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to pay attention to the impacts rather than technicalities as the unorganized system brought major impacts to South Florida Saturday.
As mentioned, the term tropical cyclone is the umbrella that encompasses all basins throughout the world.
In the Atlantic, tropical cyclones are referred to as depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes based on maximum sustained winds. In the Western Pacific, once a storm has winds greater than 74 mph, it is considered a typhoon rather than a hurricane. It is still a tropical storm when it has winds below 74 mph.
In the Indian Ocean, the storms are just called cyclones.