Difference between a Typhoon and Cyclone

January 19, 2017 by Editorial Team

Ever look at a weather warning report in areas prone to typhoon and cyclones? Without having to look too far back into your geography lessons, how much do you remember about these weather phenomena? If the answer is not much, let’s help you out with an article on the difference between a typhoon and a cyclone. You never know where your travels will take you and you might need to know!


Typhoon vs Cyclone
A space view of the Maysak typhoon

A typhoon is a powerful storm with a circular wind system. These winds are very violent and they form an eye above the formation region by moving around in circles at speeds that can reach 85 miles per hour. The movement is caused by the evaporation of sea water. Therefore, the warmer the water is, the more powerful the typhoon becomes. Typhoons are measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale and they have 5 intensity levels.

Only storms that form northwest of the Pacific Ocean are called typhoons. Since they depend on the Coriolis force (generated by the Earth’s rotation force), they can only form at more than 10 degrees north or south of the Ecuador.

Sky view of a cyclone

A cyclone is a very powerful storm described as a large mass of air developed around a center, moving at very high speed. This mass of air builds around a hot center that rises from the ground. There are five categories of cyclones, their intensity increasing from levels 1 through 5. Spinning speeds start at 40 miles per hour and can even end up at 155 miles per hour in the case of a category 5 cyclone.

There are three types of cyclones. The tropical cyclone, which is the most familiar one, occurs in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The polar cyclone occurs in countries like Greenland, Siberia and Antarctica. Lastly, mesocyclones occur when a thunderstorm starts to spin and threatens to turn into a tornado.

Typhoon vs Cyclone

So then, what is the difference between a typhoon and cyclone?

Since they are both powerful storms that form around a mass of rising warm air, the only difference between them is location. Basically, we call such a storm a typhoon if it’s Northwest of the Pacific Ocean and we call it a cyclone in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Comparison Chart

Forms Northwest of the Pacific OceanForms in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean


Here’s a video of a car that appears to have been whisked away by a typhoon.