Weather Explained: What is the difference between tropical and extratropical cyclone



  • The meteorologists distinguish cyclones by the speed of their movement on stationary (moving slowly or not at all) and nonstationary (moving fast) which helps in the weather forecast.

    Another common way to differ between cyclones is by dividing them in two groups. Tropical and extratropical cyclones.

    What is extratropical cyclone

    Extratropical cyclones are created usually around polar jet and they are quite large in a horizontal scale. They usually have their own frontal system with a warm front, cold front and warm sector. These cyclones move from west to east because they are in regions with the westerly flow (ca 30° - 60° in latitude). In their centre, they are cold as they form in middle latitude.

    Tropical cyclone

    On the other hand, tropical cyclones are created a few degrees from the equator and are quite small in horizontal scale, but deeper, which means that there is a bigger gradient of pressure and lower pressure in its centre. They cannot have any frontal system and they move from east to west because they are pushed by the trade winds around the equator. In their centre, they are warm because they collect energy from condensing water droplets and the process of condensation means warming the surrounding air.

    Štěpán Šubík

    Prague based student of meteorology eager for science, who likes to learn, but also wants to live to the fullest every day. Follow me on Twitter.

    Next chapters:

    • What’s the difference between hurricane, typhoon, cyclone and tornado

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