Tropical Cyclones

Authored by: Patrick J. Fitzpatrick

Atmosphere and Climate

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  May  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138339675
eBook ISBN: 9780429440984
Adobe ISBN:


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This entry provides an overview on tropical cyclones. A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level cyclonic circulation. The life cycle from genesis to mature, intense storms is discussed, the physical causes of their development are described, and their wind/cloud structure is presented. The causes of storm surge are described in detail, along with a storm surge scale based on intensity, bathymetry, storm size, and storm speed. The mechanisms that damage property and vegetation from tropical cyclone wind, storm surge, and flooding are explained in detail. The Saffir–Simpson wind damage scale and the Australian wind damage scale are contrasted. A global context is provided for tropical cyclone climatology, classifications, and terminology. A table is provided of classification schemes—from genesis to intense categories—for the seven ocean regions where tropical cyclones occur. The process for assigning tropical cyclone names in each ocean basin is presented. A brief overview on forecasting procedures is discussed.

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