JAPAN’S typhoon Faxai howled across the Tokyo this morning killing two people and causing dozens of injuries.
The deadly storm comes after Hurricane Dorian hit the popular holiday state of Florida after ripping through the Bahamas.
A radar showing the eye of hurricane Dorian[/caption]
What is the difference between a cyclone, typhoon and hurricane?
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are names for the same weather phenomenon.
The difference between them is their location.
Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and North East Pacific.
Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean and typhoons form over the North West Pacific Ocean.
Hurricanes and typhoons are tropical cyclones – which is a generic term to indicate rotating systems of clouds and thunderstorms over tropical or subtropical waters.
What are hurricanes and how do they form?
Powerful storms arising in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific are called hurricanes, while those in the western Pacific and Indian ocean are called typhoons or cyclones.
North of the equator they spin anticlockwise because of the rotation of the earth.
They turn the opposite way in the southern hemisphere.
Cyclones are like giant weather engines fuelled by water vapour as it evaporates from the sea.
Warm, moist air rises from the surface, creating a low pressure system that sucks in air from surrounding areas – which in turn is warmed by the ocean.
As the vapour rises it cools and condenses into swirling bands of cumulonimbus storm clouds.
The system grows and spins faster, sucking in more air and feeding off the energy in sea water that has been warmed by the sun.
At the centre, a calm “eye” of the storm is created where cooled air sinks towards the ultra-low pressure zone below, surrounded by spiralling winds of warm air rising.
The faster the wind, the lower the air pressure at the centre and the storm grows stronger and stronger.
Tropical cyclones usually weaken when they hit land as they are no longer fed by evaporation from the warm sea.
But they often move far inland – dumping huge amounts of rain and causing devastating wind damage – before the “fuel” runs out and the storm dies.
Hurricanes can also cause storm surges when the low air pressure sucks the sea level higher than normal, swamping low-lying coasts if the height of the storm coincides with high tide.
Workers remove debris from a beach in Dorian’s path[/caption]
What are the hurricane categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale?
When wind speeds reach 39mph a storm is officially classed as a tropical storm.
Above 74mph it is called a category one hurricane on a scale that goes up to five.
A powerful storm of category three or above is considered a “major hurricane”.
The Saffir-Simpson scale was devised in 1971 by civil engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson, who was head of the US National Hurricane Centre.
It was introduced to the public in 1973 as a means of communicating the danger of upcoming storms so that populations could better prepare.
The scale was tweaked in 2009 to remove air pressure and storm surge ranges, transforming it into a pure measurement of wind scale.
It helps to paint a clear picture of the damage to buildings that can be expected from hurricane force winds.
But it does not take account of the potential devastation caused by monsoon downpours or tidal storm surges.
The categories are as follows:
- Category one: Wind speeds 74-95mph — very dangerous winds will produce some damage
- Category two: Wind speeds 96-110mph — extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
- Category three: Wind speeds 111-129mph — devastating damage will occur
- Category four: Wind speeds 130-156mph — catastrophic damage will occur
- Category five: Wind speeds 157+mph — areas will be completely razed
Hurricane Katrina was a category 5 hurricane.
It killed more than 1,800 people when it struck New Orleans, Louisiana and the neighbouring states in late August 2005.
It was the single most catastrophic natural disaster in US history, causing damage estimated at $108billion.
Hurricane Dorian has left 70,000 people in the Bahamas in need of food and shelter[/caption]
In September 2019, North America was braced for Hurricane Dorian – a category 5 hurricane with winds over 200mph.
It began as a tropical storm but progressed into a powerful hurricane.
Dorian has left 70,000 people in the Bahamas in need of food and shelter, with aid workers on the ground comparing the devastation to the aftermath of a nuclear blast.
The storm, whose winds reached 225mph, made landfall early last week, flattening buildings across the country’s islands and provoking huge tidal surges.
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When is the season for typhoons and hurricanes?
Hurricanes form when the ocean is warm. In the Atlantic this means the summer and autumn.
In September 2018, Hurricane Florence triggered a state of emergency in three US states as it hurtled towards the east coast.
Meteorologists class the Atlantic hurricane season as running from June 1 to November 30, although intense storms can happen outside these dates.
An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Some scientists have blamed the series of intense storms in 2017 on the absence of the El Niño weather phenomenon in the Pacific.
Typhoon season is an ongoing event, although most tropical cyclones develop between May and October.
This week, typhoon Faxai howled across the Tokyo killing two people and causing dozens of injuries.
The 134mph winds disrupted rush-hour travel and knocked out power as several railway operators suspended services and flights were cancelled at airports.
Faxai passed over Chiba, a northern suburb of the Japanese capital, before daybreak, shaking homes with strong winds and battering the area with rain.
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