Cyclone Amphan hits Odisha, West Bengal, and Bangladesh. What is a cyclone? Read on to find out!

Cyclone Amphan has hit Bangladesh as well as Odisha and West Bengal in India. Strong winds, rain and damage when people are already grappling with the coronavirus has made it hard for the people in those areas. It seems to have weakened a bit in intensity though, which is a blessing. Let’s hope that they will have enough resources to weather this out, and let’s be prepared to help those who will be in need.

So what is a cyclone anyway? And how is it different to a hurricane? We are glad you asked!

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all the same weather phenomenon. We just use different names for these tropical storms in different places.

When they occur in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific they are called hurricanes. The same storm in the Northwest Pacific is called a typhoon.  In the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, they are called cyclones.

How do these tropical storms form?

Tropical storms need a lot of heat to form, which is why they usually occur over warm waters near the equator. The sun is close to the equator, providing energy to heat the ocean.

-Warm waters heat the air above it causing it to rise or evaporate.

-The moist, warm air moves up rapidly and leaves a vacuum near the surface.

-Another way to say the same thing is that the warm air rises, causing an area of lower air pressure below.

-Cool air from surrounding areas with higher air pressure rushes into the low-pressure area. Then that “new” air becomes warm and moist and rises, too. 

-As the air rises it cools, condenses and forms towering cumulonimbus clouds.

-As the cycle continues, the rapidly rising air creates an area of intense low pressure and the surrounding air swirls in, causing very strong winds. The whole system of clouds and wind swirls and grows, boosted by the ocean’s heat.

Once the storm moves over land it starts to lose energy and fades.

New Straits Times

These tropical storms bring strong violent winds, a deluge of rain, and huge waves from the ocean. As these storms move from water to land they often cause damage to homes and cities.

Luckily we have meteorologists. They are scientists who study the atmosphere. Amongst other things they predict the weather and inform us when a powerful storm is likely to come our way.  They use Satellite images and computer modeling help to predict the storm’s intensity and path of travel or trajectory of the storm.

Fun Fact: Did you know the center of the storm is called the “eye.”?  The eye is actually the part of the storm with the calmest conditions!