What is the Difference Between a Hurricane and a Typhoon?

Answer:  A hurricane is the exact same meteorological phenomenon as a typhoon. The difference is simply a function of the storm’s location relative to the International Date Line (180ºW).  A “hurricane” west of the International Date Line (IDL) is called a typhoon.  The term is believed to have its origins in Sinitic, one of the Chinese language varieties and translates to “big wind”.  It entered the English language during the late 16th century.

Hurricane Kilo Becomes a Typhoon — But Why?

As Hurricane Kilo crossed the International Date Line, the term officially became Typhoon Kilo. If Kilo were to cross back over the IDL, the term “hurricane” would again be used.

Track history of Hurricane Kilo, and Kilo becoming a Typhoon at 180ºW Longitude.

Satellite Images of Hurricane Kilo Becoming Typhoon Kilo

I am often asked about the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon, and many people honestly believe they are different meteorological phenomena.  However, they are one and the same.  These satellite animations from September 1, 2015 show Hurricane Kilo crossing the Date Line (180ºW).  Once the eye has crossed over, the name officially becomes “typhoon” and the tracking/warning responsibility is transferred to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  If the same storm turns back to the east or northeast and crosses the IDL again, the term will become “hurricane”.  So, as you can see, there are no meteorological differences between the two; the sole difference is simply a function of the storm’s location.

Hurricane Kilo Becoming Typhoon Kilo at the International Date Line

Hurricane Kilo Becoming Typhoon Kilo at the International Date Line

Visible Satellite Image of Hurricane Kilo Crossing 180ºW and Becoming "Typhoon Kilo".

Visible Satellite Image of Hurricane Kilo Crossing 180ºW and Becoming “Typhoon Kilo”.

CPHC final statement that transfers forecast responsibility for Typhoon Kilo (formerly Hurricane Kilo east of 180ºW) to the RSMC Tokyo-Typhoon Center in Japan.

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