Types of cyclones

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Types of cyclones
The centre of a cyclone is the area of lowest pressure. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A cyclone is a funicular weather system characterised by rotational winds. In the northern hemisphere these winds blow in an anti-clockwise direction, while in the southern hemisphere the winds spiral in the opposite direction .These directions correspond with the rotation of the Earth. Cyclones occur in areas of low atmospheric pressure. However, there are several types that can form in different locations.

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As the name implies, these cyclones form over the oceans in the tropics, such as the Caribbean and South East Asia. Low pressure over the surface of the sea draws energy from condensation and evaporation of the water. High pressure further up the air column causes high winds and heavy rains. String tropical cyclones often result in flooding. However, there are different levels of strength in tropical cyclones, from disturbances where winds are weak, through storms and hurricanes.


Also known as mid-latitude cyclones, these weather systems occur outside of the tropical areas, being most common between 30 and 60 degrees north and south of the equator. They typically form along weather fronts, where cold air meets warm air. They tend to be less forceful and destructive than tropical cyclones as their energy is dissipated over a larger area.


These cyclones form in the areas beyond 60 degrees latitude, such as the North Atlantic Ocean. The warm waters at these latitudes give such cyclones their energy, through condensation and evaporation, and can carry them into sub polar zones. Mid-latitude cyclones are renowned for their height, with some reaching more than 30,000 feet. Such a reach into the atmosphere means that their centres are cold.


A tornado is characterised by where its ends lie. The base of a tornado is in contact with the ground, while the upper end is in contact with a cloud, typically a cumulonimbus cloud. They have a distinctive funnel shape, with a narrow bottom and wider top. This funnel is formed of rain and the cyclone rotates very rapidly. Winds inside a tornado can reach up to 300 miles per hour.

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