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Why storms are named

POSTED: July 13, 2010 12:49 p.m.
NOAA graphic/

When storms are the most common

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Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older, more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases, and ships at sea. The use of easily remembered names also greatly reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time.

Different types of storms

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC) categorizes tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico) into four types based on intensity:

• Tropical Disturbance: A discrete tropical weather system of apparently organized thunderstorms -- generally 100 to 300 nautical miles in diameter -- originating in the tropics or subtropics, and maintaining its identity for 24 hours or more.
• Tropical Depression: An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
• Tropical Storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph (34-63 knots).
• Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation, producing maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or greater. Such systems can be thousands of square kilometers in size and usually have a lifespan of several days.

 

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