What is a Cyclone



  • In simple words, a cyclone is a type of storm with winds spiralling inwards, or more precisely - like a meteorologist - would tell you, the cyclone is low-pressure structure in the atmosphere.

    Pressure in the atmosphere is not the same in every place and it even changes in time. There are places with lower pressure called cyclones and places with higher pressure named anticyclones.

    In cyclones, there is the pressure between 900 and 1020 hPa (in extremes a few hPa below 900 hPa) which is lower than the pressure around, so the air tries to get to its centre. The winds would aim straight to the centre of a cyclone if there was no Coriolis force.

    In the large scale weather systems, we can distinguish between three main types of surface-based cyclones: Extratropical cyclones, Subtropical cyclones and Tropical cyclones. In the mesoscale weather systems category, we can find cyclones too. Tornado, waterspout, dust devil or firenado are just a few examples of them.

    Now let’s get back to large-scale weather systems.

    photo: B dash;desc: Cyclone Idai above Madagascar;link:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Cyclone_Idai_west_of_Madagascar.jpg;licence: cc;

    What direction cyclone spins

    Coriolis force makes every particle which is moving on the Earth to slightly turn from its direction. In the Northern hemisphere, it is to the right and in the Southern hemisphere, it is to the left. That is why the wind turns around a cyclone anticlockwise in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the South.

    photo: bniegel;desc: A cyclone - tropical storm Lee;link: http://www.dodlive.mil/2012/09/01/hurricane-hunters-provide-critical-data/tropical-storm-lee/;licence: cc;

    To be continued… Next chapters:

    • What is a tropical cyclone
    • The anatomy of the tropical cyclone
    • What is the difference between tropical and extratropical cyclone
    • What’s the difference between hurricane, typhoon, cyclone


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