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Since You Asked

East is East, and West is West; both are cyclones In the newspapers I have seen storms described as hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons. What's the difference?

' Leonard Z., Central Point

Hurricanes and typhoons are both cyclones, Leonard, with some significant differences.

And what's a cyclone? It's a spiraling mass of air where wind speeds rise to more than 75 mph, according to an old copy of Weatherize magazine we found in the Since You Asked attic.

When a cyclone develops in the Atlantic or the eastern Pacific we call it a hurricane (from the West Indian word hurrican, meaning big wind). When a storm happens in the western Pacific, they're known as typhoons (from the Chinese taifun which means great wind).

There are climatological differences between hurricanes and typhoons. In order for tropical cyclones to form, sea surface temperatures are usually at least 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit).

The warmer the water, the greater the energy potentially available to the tropical cyclone. Because the sea surface temperature is about 2 degrees Celsius warmer in the western tropical Pacific than all other places tropical cyclones form, and the layer of warm water is thicker and more extensive there, typhoons tend to be more vigorous and numerous than hurricanes.

The storms have their own distinct seasons ' hurricanes typically happen from June to November; the typhoon season typically extends from May through December, but typhoons can occur in any month of the year.

Send questions to Since You Asked, Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to . We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.