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This article is about the weather phenomenon. For other uses see Hurricane (disambiguation)

Satellite image of a hurricane

Hurricane is the regionally specific name for a strong tropical cyclone. A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of over 33 metres per second (about 64 knots, or 74 mph) is referred to as a "hurricane" in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the dateline, and the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E.

In the UK and Europe some severe north-east Atlantic cyclonic depressions are referred to as "hurricanes," even although they rarely originate in the tropics. These European windstorms can generate hurricane-force windspeeds but are not given individual names.

Other names for hurricanes

Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained winds over this limit are referred to by other names in other regions, such as "typhoon", "severe tropical cyclone", "severe cyclonic storm", and just plain old "tropical cyclone".

In other places in the world, hurricanes have been called Willy-Willies (singular Willy-Willy) in Australia, Baguio in the Philippines and Taino in Haiti.

Naming of hurricanes

To help in their identification, in the early 1950's the practice of naming tropical storms and hurricanes was initiated by the United States. In keeping with the common English language practice of referring to inanimate objects such as boats, trains, etc., using the female pronoun "she", names used were exclusively female. The first storm of the year was assigned a name beginning with the letter "A", the second with the letter "B", etc. However, since tropical storms and hurricanes are primarily destructive, it was gradually realized by the National Weather Service that the naming practice could be considered inadvertantly sexist, and in 1979 the use of male names, in addition to female names, was initiated. Currently, female and male names during a given season are assigned alternately, still in alphabetic order. The "gender" of the first storm of the season also alternates year to year. The lists of names is prepared in advance, and reused periodically, except that the names of particularly destructive storms are "retired".

Hurricanes are rated on a 1-5 scale based on wind intensity called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

See also: list of hurricanes, tropical cyclone, arctic cyclone and Beaufort scale for further discussion.

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