What is a potential tropical cyclone?

Term first used 2017

By Jonathan Kegges - Meteorologist

ORLANDO, Fla.- - The "potential tropical cyclone" is a relatively new designation from the National Hurricane Center. It was created in 2017 to identify areas of disturbed weather close to land that have the potential to take on tropical characteristics. 

A potential tropical cyclone is a disorganized cluster of storms that has the potential to become a tropical depression with winds up 39 mph or a tropical storm with winds greater than 39 mph and threaten land.

This designation allows the National Hurricane Center to create its forecasts and issue watches and warnings, if necessary.

I thought cyclones were in another part of the world

That's kind of true, but cyclones do occur across the entire world. All storms are cyclones. In the Northern Hemisphere, winds spiral inward and counterclockwise. A tropical cyclone is an area of low pressure in the tropics.

In our part of the world we refer to these as tropical depressions, tropical storms or hurricanes. 

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 called cyclones.

 

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