Cyclone

Cyclone

Overview
In meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiral
Spiral
In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point.-Spiral or helix:...

ing wind
Wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

s that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and clockwise
Clockwise
Circular motion can occur in two possible directions. A clockwise motion is one that proceeds in the same direction as a clock's hands: from the top to the right, then down and then to the left, and back to the top...

 in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 of the Earth. Most large-scale cyclonic circulations are centered on areas of low atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure is the force per unit area exerted into a surface by the weight of air above that surface in the atmosphere of Earth . In most circumstances atmospheric pressure is closely approximated by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point...

. The largest low-pressure systems are cold-core
Cold-core low
A cold-core low, also known as a cold low or cold-core cyclone, is a cyclone aloft which has an associated cold pool of air residing at high altitude within the Earth's troposphere. It is a low pressure system which strengthens with height in accordance with the thermal wind relationship. These...

 polar cyclones and extratropical cyclones which lie on the synoptic scale.
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In meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiral
Spiral
In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point.-Spiral or helix:...

ing wind
Wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

s that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and clockwise
Clockwise
Circular motion can occur in two possible directions. A clockwise motion is one that proceeds in the same direction as a clock's hands: from the top to the right, then down and then to the left, and back to the top...

 in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 of the Earth. Most large-scale cyclonic circulations are centered on areas of low atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure is the force per unit area exerted into a surface by the weight of air above that surface in the atmosphere of Earth . In most circumstances atmospheric pressure is closely approximated by the hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of air above the measurement point...

. The largest low-pressure systems are cold-core
Cold-core low
A cold-core low, also known as a cold low or cold-core cyclone, is a cyclone aloft which has an associated cold pool of air residing at high altitude within the Earth's troposphere. It is a low pressure system which strengthens with height in accordance with the thermal wind relationship. These...

 polar cyclones and extratropical cyclones which lie on the synoptic scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

s, mesocyclone
Mesocyclone
A mesocyclone is a vortex of air, approximately 2 to 10 miles in diameter , within a convective storm....

s, and polar lows lie within the smaller mesoscale
Mesoscale meteorology
Mesoscale meteorology is the study of weather systems smaller than synoptic scale systems but larger than microscale and storm-scale cumulus systems. Horizontal dimensions generally range from around 5 kilometers to several hundred kilometers...

. Subtropical cyclone
Subtropical cyclone
A subtropical cyclone is a weather system that has some characteristics of a tropical and an extratropical cyclone. As early as the 1950s, meteorologists were unclear whether they should be characterized as tropical or extratropical cyclones. They were officially recognized by the National...

s are of intermediate size. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough
Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough
A tropical upper tropospheric trough , also known as the mid-oceanic trough, is a trough situated in upper-level tropics. Its formation is usually caused by the intrusion of energy and wind from the mid-latitudes into the tropics. It can also develop from the inverted trough adjacent to an upper...

 during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 and Neptune
Neptune
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun in the Solar System. Named for the Roman god of the sea, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third largest by mass. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and is slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus, which is 15 times...

.
Cyclogenesis describes the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones form as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones
Baroclinity
In fluid dynamics, the baroclinity of a stratified fluid is a measure of how misaligned the gradient of pressure is from the gradient of density in a fluid...

. These zones contract to form weather front
Weather front
A weather front is a boundary separating two masses of air of different densities, and is the principal cause of meteorological phenomena. In surface weather analyses, fronts are depicted using various colored lines and symbols, depending on the type of front...

s as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, cyclones occlude
Occluded front
An occluded front is formed during the process of cyclogenesis when a cold front overtakes a warm front. When this occurs, the warm air is separated from the cyclone center at the Earth's surface...

 as cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the cancer or subtropical jet stream
Jet stream
Jet streams are fast flowing, narrow air currents found in the atmospheres of some planets, including Earth. The main jet streams are located near the tropopause, the transition between the troposphere and the stratosphere . The major jet streams on Earth are westerly winds...

.

Weather fronts separate two masses of air
Air mass
In meteorology, an air mass is a volume of air defined by its temperature and water vapor content. Air masses cover many hundreds or thousands of square miles, and adopt the characteristics of the surface below them. They are classified according to latitude and their continental or maritime...

 of different densities
Density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 and are associated with the most prominent meteorological phenomena
Meteorological phenomenon
A meteorological phenomenon is a weather event that can be explained by the principles of meteorology. Such events include:* Air mass* Anticyclone* Arctic cyclone* Clouds* Crow Instability* Derecho* Diamond dust* Drought* Dust devil* Dust storm...

. Air masses separated by a front may differ in temperature
Temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

 or humidity
Humidity
Humidity is a term for the amount of water vapor in the air, and can refer to any one of several measurements of humidity. Formally, humid air is not "moist air" but a mixture of water vapor and other constituents of air, and humidity is defined in terms of the water content of this mixture,...

. Strong cold fronts typically feature narrow bands of thunderstorm
Thunderstorm
A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm, a lightning storm, thundershower or simply a storm is a form of weather characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth's atmosphere known as thunder. The meteorologically assigned cloud type associated with the...

s and severe weather
Severe weather
Severe weather phenomena are weather conditions that are hazardous to human life and property.- Examples Include :Severe weather can occur under a variety of situations, but three characteristics are generally needed: a temperature or moisture boundary, moisture, and , instability in the...

, and may on occasion be preceded by squall line
Squall line
A squall line is a line of severe thunderstorms that can form along or ahead of a cold front. In the early 20th century, the term was used as a synonym for cold front. It contains heavy precipitation, hail, frequent lightning, strong straight-line winds, and possibly tornadoes and waterspouts....

s or dry line
Dry line
A dry line separates moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and dry desert air from the south-western states . The dry line is an important factor in severe weather frequency in the Great Plains of North America...

s. They form west of the circulation center and generally move from west to east. Warm front
Warm front
A warm front is a density discontinuity located at the leading edge of a homogeneous warm air mass, and is typically located on the equator-facing edge of an isotherm gradient...

s form east of the cyclone center and are usually preceded by stratiform precipitation
Precipitation (meteorology)
In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation In meteorology, precipitation (also known as one of the classes of hydrometeors, which are atmospheric water phenomena is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravity. The main forms of precipitation...

 and fog
Fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

. They move poleward
Geographical pole
A geographical pole is either of the two points—the north pole and the south pole—on the surface of a rotating planet where the axis of rotation meets the surface of the body...

 ahead of the cyclone path. Occluded fronts form late in the cyclone life cycle near the center of the cyclone and often wrap around the storm center.

Tropical cyclogenesis
Tropical cyclogenesis
Tropical cyclogenesis is the term that describes the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone in the atmosphere. The mechanisms through which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those through which mid-latitude cyclogenesis occurs...

 describes the process of development of tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones form due to latent heat driven by significant thunderstorm activity, and are warm core. Cyclones can transition between extratropical, subtropical, and tropical phases under the right conditions. Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado
Tornado
A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology in a wider...

 formation. Waterspout
Waterspout
A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex that occurs over a body of water and is connected to a cumuliform cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water. While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur...

s can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear
Wind shear
Wind shear, sometimes referred to as windshear or wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere...

.

Structure


There are a number of structural characteristics common to all cyclones.The cyclones have high pressure outside and low pressure inside. A cyclone is a low pressure area
Low pressure area
A low-pressure area, or "low", is a region where the atmospheric pressure at sea level is below that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence which occur in upper levels of the troposphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as...

. A cyclone's center (often known in a mature tropical cyclone as the eye
Eye (cyclone)
The eye is a region of mostly calm weather found at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area and typically 30–65 km in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the second most severe weather of a cyclone...

), is the area of lowest atmospheric pressure in the region. Near the center, the pressure gradient force
Pressure gradient force
The pressure gradient force is not actually a 'force' but the acceleration of air due to pressure difference . It is usually responsible for accelerating a parcel of air from a high atmospheric pressure region to a low pressure region, resulting in wind...

 (from the pressure in the center of the cyclone compared to the pressure outside the cyclone) and the force
Force
In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction, or a change in shape. In other words, a force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity , i.e., to accelerate, or which can cause a flexible object to deform...

 from the Coriolis effect
Coriolis effect
In physics, the Coriolis effect is a deflection of moving objects when they are viewed in a rotating reference frame. In a reference frame with clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the left of the motion of the object; in one with counter-clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the right...

 must be in an approximate balance, or the cyclone would collapse on itself as a result of the difference in pressure.

Because of the Coriolis effect, the wind flow around a large cyclone is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the fastest winds relative to the surface of the Earth therefore occur on the eastern side of a northward-moving cyclone and on the northern side of a westward-moving one; the opposite occurs in the Southern Hemisphere. (The wind flow around an anticyclone
Anticyclone
An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States' National Weather Service's glossary as "[a] large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere"...

, on the other hand, is clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere.)

Formation




Cyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere (a low pressure area). Cyclogenesis is an umbrella term for several different processes, all of which result in the development of some sort of cyclone. It can occur at various scales, from the microscale to the synoptic scale.

Extratropical cyclones form as waves along weather fronts before occluding later in their life cycle as cold core cyclones.

Tropical cyclones form due to latent heat driven by significant thunderstorm activity, and are warm core.

Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado formation. Waterspout
Waterspout
A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex that occurs over a body of water and is connected to a cumuliform cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water. While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur...

s can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear
Wind shear
Wind shear, sometimes referred to as windshear or wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere...

. Cyclogenesis is the opposite of cyclolysis, and has an anticyclonic (high pressure system) equivalent which deals with the formation of high pressure area
High pressure area
A high-pressure area is a region where the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the planet is greater than its surrounding environment. Winds within high-pressure areas flow outward due to the higher density air near their center and friction with land...

s—Anticyclogenesis
Anticyclogenesis
Anticyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of anticyclonic circulation in the atmosphere. It is the opposite of anticyclolysis, and has a cyclonic equivalent—cyclogenesis. Anticyclones are alternatively referred to as high pressure systems. High pressure areas form due to downward...

.

The surface low has a variety of ways of forming. Topography can force a surface low when dense low-level high pressure system ridges in east of a north-south mountain barrier. Mesoscale convective systems
Mesoscale Convective System
A mesoscale convective system is a complex of thunderstorms that becomes organized on a scale larger than the individual thunderstorms but smaller than extratropical cyclones, and normally persists for several hours or more...

 can spawn surface lows which are initially warm core. The disturbance can grow into a wave-like formation along the front
Surface weather analysis
Surface weather analysis is a special type of weather map that provides a view of weather elements over a geographical area at a specified time based on information from ground-based weather stations...

 and the low will be positioned at the crest. Around the low, flow will become cyclonic, by definition. This rotational flow will push polar air equatorward west of the low via its trailing cold front
Cold front
A cold front is defined as the leading edge of a cooler mass of air, replacing a warmer mass of air.-Development of cold front:The cooler and denser air wedges under the less-dense warmer air, lifting it...

, and warmer air with push poleward low via the warm front
Warm front
A warm front is a density discontinuity located at the leading edge of a homogeneous warm air mass, and is typically located on the equator-facing edge of an isotherm gradient...

. Usually the cold front will move at a quicker pace than the warm front and “catch up” with it due to the slow erosion of higher density airmass located out ahead of the cyclone and the higher density airmass sweeping in behind the cyclone, usually resulting in a narrowing warm sector. At this point an occluded front
Occluded front
An occluded front is formed during the process of cyclogenesis when a cold front overtakes a warm front. When this occurs, the warm air is separated from the cyclone center at the Earth's surface...

 forms where the warm air mass is pushed upwards into a trough of warm air aloft, which is also known as a trowal.

Tropical cyclogenesis is the technical term describing the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 in the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

. The mechanisms through which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those through which mid-latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

 cyclogenesis occurs. Tropical cyclogenesis involves the development of a warm-core cyclone, due to significant convection
Convection
Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

 in a favorable atmospheric environment. There are six main requirements for tropical cyclogenesis: sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures, atmospheric instability, high humidity
Humidity
Humidity is a term for the amount of water vapor in the air, and can refer to any one of several measurements of humidity. Formally, humid air is not "moist air" but a mixture of water vapor and other constituents of air, and humidity is defined in terms of the water content of this mixture,...

 in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere
Troposphere
The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere. It contains approximately 80% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols....

, enough Coriolis force to develop a low pressure center, a preexisting low level focus or disturbance, and low vertical wind shear
Wind shear
Wind shear, sometimes referred to as windshear or wind gradient, is a difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere...

. An average of 86 tropical cyclones of tropical storm intensity form annually worldwide, with 47 reaching hurricane/typhoon strength, and 20 becoming intense tropical cyclones (at least Category 3 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale , or the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale , classifies hurricanes — Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms — into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds...

).

Surface-based types



There are six main types of cyclones: Polar cyclone
Polar cyclone
Polar cyclones are low-pressure areas which strengthen in the winter and weaken in the summer...

s, Polar low
Polar low
A polar low is a small-scale, long-lived atmospheric low pressure system that is found over the ocean areas poleward of the main polar front in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The systems usually have a horizontal length scale of less than and exist for no more than a couple of days. ...

s, Extratropical cyclone
Extratropical cyclone
Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are a group of cyclones defined as synoptic scale low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth having neither tropical nor polar characteristics, and are connected with fronts and...

s, Subtropical cyclone
Subtropical cyclone
A subtropical cyclone is a weather system that has some characteristics of a tropical and an extratropical cyclone. As early as the 1950s, meteorologists were unclear whether they should be characterized as tropical or extratropical cyclones. They were officially recognized by the National...

s, Tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

s, and Mesocyclone
Mesocyclone
A mesocyclone is a vortex of air, approximately 2 to 10 miles in diameter , within a convective storm....

s

Polar cyclone



A polar, sub-polar, or Arctic cyclone (also known as a polar vortex) is a vast area of low pressure which strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer. A polar cyclone is a low pressure weather system, usually spanning 1000 kilometres (621.4 mi) to 2000 kilometres (1,242.7 mi), in which the air circulates in a counterclockwise direction in the northern hemisphere, and a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the polar cyclone has two centers on average. One center lies near Baffin Island and the other over northeast Siberia. In the southern hemisphere, it tends to be located near the edge of the Ross ice shelf
Ross Ice Shelf
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica . It is several hundred metres thick. The nearly vertical ice front to the open sea is more than 600 km long, and between 15 and 50 metres high above the water surface...

 near 160 west longitude. When the polar vortex is strong, westerly flow descends to the Earth's surface. When the polar cyclone is weak, significant cold outbreaks occur.

Polar low



A polar low is a small-scale, short-lived atmospheric low pressure system
Low pressure area
A low-pressure area, or "low", is a region where the atmospheric pressure at sea level is below that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence which occur in upper levels of the troposphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as...

 (depression) that is found over the ocean areas poleward of the main polar front
Polar front
In meteorology, the polar front is the boundary between the polar cell and the Ferrel cell in each hemisphere. At this boundary a sharp gradient in temperature occurs between these two air masses, each at very different temperatures....

 in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. During winter, when cold-core lows with temperatures in the mid-levels of the troposphere reach -45 C move over open waters, deep convection forms which allows polar low
Polar low
A polar low is a small-scale, long-lived atmospheric low pressure system that is found over the ocean areas poleward of the main polar front in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The systems usually have a horizontal length scale of less than and exist for no more than a couple of days. ...

 development to become possible. The systems usually have a horizontal length scale of less than 1000 kilometres (621.4 mi) and exist for no more than a couple of days. They are part of the larger class of mesoscale
Mesoscale meteorology
Mesoscale meteorology is the study of weather systems smaller than synoptic scale systems but larger than microscale and storm-scale cumulus systems. Horizontal dimensions generally range from around 5 kilometers to several hundred kilometers...

 weather systems. Polar lows can be difficult to detect using conventional weather reports and are a hazard to high-latitude operations, such as shipping and gas and oil platforms. Polar lows have been referred to by many other terms, such as polar mesoscale vortex, Arctic hurricane, Arctic low, and cold air depression. Today the term is usually reserved for the more vigorous systems that have near-surface winds of at least 17 m/s.

Extratropical




An extratropical cyclone is a synoptic scale
Synoptic scale meteorology
The synoptic scale in meteorology is a horizontal length scale of the order of 1000 kilometres or more. This corresponds to a horizontal scale typical of mid-latitude depressions...

 low pressure
Low pressure area
A low-pressure area, or "low", is a region where the atmospheric pressure at sea level is below that of surrounding locations. Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence which occur in upper levels of the troposphere. The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as...

 weather system that has neither tropical
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 nor polar
Polar cyclone
Polar cyclones are low-pressure areas which strengthen in the winter and weaken in the summer...

 characteristics, being connected with fronts
Surface weather analysis
Surface weather analysis is a special type of weather map that provides a view of weather elements over a geographical area at a specified time based on information from ground-based weather stations...

 and horizontal gradients in temperature
Temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

 and dew point
Dew point
The dew point is the temperature to which a given parcel of humid air must be cooled, at constant barometric pressure, for water vapor to condense into liquid water. The condensed water is called dew when it forms on a solid surface. The dew point is a saturation temperature.The dew point is...

 otherwise known as "baroclinic zones".

The descriptor "extratropical" refers to the fact that this type of cyclone generally occurs outside of the tropics, in the middle latitudes of the planet. These systems may also be described as "mid-latitude cyclones" due to their area of formation, or "post-tropical cyclones" where extratropical transition has occurred, and are often described as "depressions" or "lows" by weather forecasters and the general public. These are the everyday phenomena which along with anti-cyclones, drive the weather over much of the Earth.

Although extratropical cyclones are almost always classified as baroclinic since they form along zones of temperature and dewpoint gradient within the westerlies
Westerlies
The Westerlies, anti-trades, or Prevailing Westerlies, are the prevailing winds in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude, blowing from the high pressure area in the horse latitudes towards the poles. These prevailing winds blow from the west to the east, and steer extratropical...

, they can sometimes become barotropic
Barotropic
In meteorology, a barotropic atmosphere is one in which the pressure depends only on the density and vice versa, so that isobaric surfaces are also isopycnic surfaces . The isobaric surfaces will also be isothermal surfaces, hence the geostrophic wind is independent of height...

 late in their life cycle when the temperature distribution around the cyclone becomes fairly uniform with radius. An extratropical cyclone can transform into a subtropical storm, and from there into a tropical cyclone, if it dwells over warm waters and develops central convection, which warms its core.

Subtropical




A subtropical cyclone is a weather
Weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

 system that has some characteristics of a tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 and some characteristics of an extratropical cyclone
Extratropical cyclone
Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are a group of cyclones defined as synoptic scale low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth having neither tropical nor polar characteristics, and are connected with fronts and...

. They can form between the equator and the 50th parallel. As early as the 1950s, meteorologists were unclear whether they should be characterized as tropical cyclones or extratropical cyclones, and used terms such as quasi-tropical and semi-tropical to describe the cyclone hybrids. By 1972, the National Hurricane Center
National Hurricane Center
The National Hurricane Center , located at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, is the division of the National Weather Service responsible for tracking and predicting weather systems within the tropics between the Prime Meridian and the 140th meridian west poleward to the 30th...

 officially recognized this cyclone category. Subtropical cyclones began to receive names off the official tropical cyclone list in the Atlantic Basin in 2002. They have broad wind patterns with maximum sustained winds located farther from the center than typical tropical cyclones, and exist in areas of weak to moderate temperature gradient.

Since they form from initially extratropical cyclones which have colder temperatures aloft than normally found in the tropics, the sea surface temperatures required for their formation are lower than the tropical cyclone threshold by three degrees Celsius, or five degrees Fahrenheit, lying around 23 degrees Celsius. This means that subtropical cyclones are more likely to form outside the traditional bounds of the hurricane season. Although subtropical storms rarely have hurricane-force winds, they may become tropical in nature as their cores warm.

Tropical




A tropical cyclone is a storm system
Storm
A storm is any disturbed state of an astronomical body's atmosphere, especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying severe weather...

 characterized by a low pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

ing rain
Rain
Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface...

. A tropical cyclone feeds on heat released when moist air rises, resulting in condensation
Condensation
Condensation is the change of the physical state of matter from gaseous phase into liquid phase, and is the reverse of vaporization. When the transition happens from the gaseous phase into the solid phase directly, the change is called deposition....

 of water vapour contained in the moist air. They are fueled by a different heat mechanism than other cyclonic windstorms such as nor'easter
Nor'easter
A nor'easter is a type of macro-scale storm along the East Coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada, so named because the storm travels to the northeast from the south and the winds come from the northeast, especially in the coastal areas of the Northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada...

s, European windstorm
European windstorm
A European windstorm is a severe cyclonic windstorm associated with areas of low atmospheric pressure that track across the North Atlantic towards northwestern Europe. They are most common in the winter months...

s, and polar low
Polar low
A polar low is a small-scale, long-lived atmospheric low pressure system that is found over the ocean areas poleward of the main polar front in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The systems usually have a horizontal length scale of less than and exist for no more than a couple of days. ...

s, leading to their classification as "warm core" storm systems.

The term "tropical" refers to both the geographic origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively in tropical
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

 regions of the globe, and their formation in Maritime Tropical air masses. The term "cyclone" refers to such storms' cyclonic nature, with counterclockwise rotation in the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and clockwise rotation in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

. Depending on their location and strength, tropical cyclones are referred to by other names, such as hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, or simply as a cyclone. A tropical cyclone is generally referred to as a hurricane (from the name of the ancient Central American deity of wind, Huracan
Huracan
Huracan , in Mayan understandable as Jun Raqan "one legged", is a K'iche' Mayan god of wind, storm, fire and one of the creator deities who participated in all three attempts at creating humanity...

) in the Atlantic basin, and a cyclone in the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific.

While tropical cyclones can produce extremely powerful winds and torrential rain
Rain
Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface...

, they are also able to produce high waves and damaging storm surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea...

. They develop over large bodies of warm water, and lose their strength if they move over land. This is the reason coastal regions can receive significant damage from a tropical cyclone, while inland regions are relatively safe from receiving strong winds. Heavy rains, however, can produce significant flooding inland, and storm surges can produce extensive coastal flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

ing up to 40 kilometres (24.9 mi) from the coastline. Although their effects on human populations can be devastating, tropical cyclones can also relieve drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 conditions. They also carry heat and energy away from the tropics and transport it toward temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 latitudes, which makes them an important part of the global atmospheric circulation
Atmospheric circulation
Atmospheric circulation is the large-scale movement of air, and the means by which thermal energy is distributed on the surface of the Earth....

 mechanism. As a result, tropical cyclones help to maintain equilibrium in the Earth's troposphere
Troposphere
The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere. It contains approximately 80% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols....

.

Many tropical cyclones develop
Tropical cyclogenesis
Tropical cyclogenesis is the term that describes the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone in the atmosphere. The mechanisms through which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those through which mid-latitude cyclogenesis occurs...

 when the atmospheric conditions around a weak disturbance in the atmosphere are favorable. Others form when other types of cyclones acquire tropical characteristics. Tropical systems are then moved by steering winds in the troposphere
Troposphere
The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere. It contains approximately 80% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols....

; if the conditions remain favorable, the tropical disturbance intensifies, and can even develop an eye
Eye (cyclone)
The eye is a region of mostly calm weather found at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area and typically 30–65 km in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the second most severe weather of a cyclone...

. On the other end of the spectrum, if the conditions around the system deteriorate or the tropical cyclone makes landfall, the system weakens and eventually dissipates. A tropical cyclone can become extratropical as it moves toward higher latitudes if its energy source changes from heat released by condensation to differences in temperature between air masses; From an operational standpoint, a tropical cyclone is usually not considered to become subtropical during its extratropical transition.

Mesocyclone




A mesocyclone is a vortex
Vortex
A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

 of air, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in diameter (the mesoscale of meteorology
Mesoscale meteorology
Mesoscale meteorology is the study of weather systems smaller than synoptic scale systems but larger than microscale and storm-scale cumulus systems. Horizontal dimensions generally range from around 5 kilometers to several hundred kilometers...

), within a convective
Convection
Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

 storm
Storm
A storm is any disturbed state of an astronomical body's atmosphere, especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying severe weather...

.
Air rises and rotates around a vertical axis, usually in the same direction as low pressure systems in both northern and southern hemisphere. They are most often cyclonic, that is, associated with a localized low-pressure region within a supercell
Supercell
A supercell is a thunderstorm that is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep, continuously-rotating updraft. For this reason, these storms are sometimes referred to as rotating thunderstorms...

. Such storms can feature strong surface winds and severe hail
Hail
Hail is a form of solid precipitation. It consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice, each of which is referred to as a hail stone. Hail stones on Earth consist mostly of water ice and measure between and in diameter, with the larger stones coming from severe thunderstorms...

. Mesocyclones often occur together with updrafts in supercell
Supercell
A supercell is a thunderstorm that is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep, continuously-rotating updraft. For this reason, these storms are sometimes referred to as rotating thunderstorms...

s, where tornado
Tornado
A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology in a wider...

es may form. About 1700 mesocyclones form annually across the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, but only half produce tornadoes.

Cyclones are not unique to Earth. Cyclonic storms are common on Jovian planets
Gas giant
A gas giant is a large planet that is not primarily composed of rock or other solid matter. There are four gas giants in the Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune...

, like the Small Dark Spot on Neptune
Neptune
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun in the Solar System. Named for the Roman god of the sea, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third largest by mass. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and is slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus, which is 15 times...

. Also known as the Wizard's Eye
Wizard's eye
The Small Dark Spot, sometimes also called Dark Spot 2 or The Wizard's Eye, was a southern cyclonic storm on the planet Neptune. It was the second most intensive storm on the planet in 1989, when Voyager 2 flew by the planet. It disappeared in 1994.-See also:*Extraterrestrial cyclone*Oval BA*Great...

, it is about one third the diameter of the Great Dark Spot
Great Dark Spot
The Great Dark Spot is the name given to a series of dark spots on Neptune similar in appearance to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The first one was observed in 1989 by NASA's Voyager 2 probe. Like Jupiter's spot, they are anticyclonic storms...

. It received the name "Wizard's Eye" because it looks like an eye. This appearance is caused by a white cloud in the middle of the Wizard's Eye. Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 has also exhibited cyclonic storms. Jovian storms like the Great Red Spot are usually mistakenly named as giant hurricanes or cyclonic storms. However, this is inaccurate, as the Great Red Spot is, in fact, the inverse phenomenon, an anticyclone
Anticyclone
An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States' National Weather Service's glossary as "[a] large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere"...

.

TUTT cell



Under specific circumstances, upper cold lows can break off from the base of the Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough (TUTT), which is located mid-ocean in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer months. These upper tropospheric cyclonic vortices, also known as TUTT cells or TUTT lows, usually move slowly from east-northeast to west-southwest, and generally do not extend below 20,000 feet in altitude. A weak inverted surface trough within the trade wind
Trade wind
The trade winds are the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics, within the lower portion of the Earth's atmosphere, in the lower section of the troposphere near the Earth's equator...

 is generally found underneath them, and they may also be associated with broad areas of high-level clouds. Downward development results in an increase of cumulus clouds and the appearance of a surface vortex. In rare cases, they become warm-core, resulting in the vortex becoming a tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

. Upper cyclones and upper troughs which trail tropical cyclones can cause additional outflow channels and aid in their intensification process. Developing tropical disturbances can help create or deepen upper troughs or upper lows in their wake due to the outflow jet emanating from the developing tropical disturbance/cyclone.

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