Learn the Difference Between a Tropical Storm and Hurricane

As the season for hurricanes and tropical storms approaches, it is important to understand how the storms form and when you need to seek protection for yourself and for your home.

Let’s take a look at what differentiates the two storm systems and answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Tropical Storm vs Hurricane

Q. What is the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane?

A. The short answer to this question is wind speed. It all comes down to how fast winds are circling within a weather pattern in a low-pressure area.

Q. Is a tropical storm a hurricane?

A. A tropical storm is not a hurricane, but it can turn into one. A tropical storm is classified as a hurricane once its winds peak over 74 mph.

Q. Is a hurricane a tropical storm?

A. Yes, by definition, a hurricane is a tropical storm that has escalated and reached winds over 74 mph.

Q. How does a tropical storm form?

A. The weather starts to form in what meteorologists call a tropical depression or disturbance. The patterns show signs of a potential to increase and strength into a storm. Sometimes, the patterns show a potential to grow large enough into a hurricane.

Let’s back up and look at the tropical depression, the first indicator that a tropical storm or hurricane could be on the way.

Q. What is a tropical depression?

A. A tropical depression occurs when thunderstorms stir up the wind flow into circular patterns in low-pressure areas.

Q. How does a depression become a storm?

A. The thunderstorms stir up the wind into circles, creating a cyclonic pattern. If the winds continue and escalate over 39 mph, the depression becomes a tropical storm.

Q. When is the storm a hurricane?

A. Once winds are sustained between 74 mph and 95 mph, the tropical storm becomes a Category 1 (minimal) hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The hurricane can grow with damage potential that ranges on the scale (1-5) from minimal, moderate, extensive, extreme to catastrophic.

Q. Which areas are low pressure?

A. A low-pressure area is usually a warm ocean water location over which rain clouds begin to accumulate and build.

Q. How does the tropical storm build?

A. The warm, moist air acts as fuel for the tropical depressions that escalate into storms. So the warmer and more humid it is in an area, the more the depression builds and the more powerful the tropical storm can become.

Tropical storms build over ocean areas near the equator where heat is plenty and moisture is constantly rising up from the water. As heat rises, the warm ocean air continues to rise upward, building a dense cloud system as well as continuing to decrease the air pressure at the ocean’s surface. Both of these factors contribute to the storm system’s size and intensity.

Once air rises from the ocean’s surface and into the storm cloud, surrounding air moves into the low-pressure area. Consequentially, that air that moved in also warms up. As it warms, it rises, creating an ongoing circular effect with air as it rises, the surface pressure dropping, new air circulating in, heating, rising, etc. The warm and cooled air can begin to cool and form clouds, creating a spinning system of clouds and wind that grow to become storms and hurricanes. As the system gains speed and size, it develops an eye at its center. Once a storm hits land, it tends to weaken without the continued supply of moist, warm water.

Q. Are hurricanes dangerous?

A. Hurricanes are extremely dangerous; they are the most violent storms on the earth. This is why meteorologists follow weather patterns so closely, hoping to warn residents and visitors of hurricane-prone areas in time.

Q. What classifies a tropical storm as a hurricane?

A. Besides wind speeds over 74 mph, the hurricane denotation is given only to tropical cyclones that occur over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.




Is Your Home or Commercial Building Ready for Hurricane Season in South Florida?

When the time comes for tropical storm and hurricane season in Florida, the question will be, ‘Are your windows and doors prepared?  Reach out to our reliable team at Signature Impact Windows and Doors to ensure your safety and the highest quality protection of your home. Call us today at 305-912-7493 to request a quote for hurricane impact windows and doors in South Florida. You may also contact us online with questions or to schedule a consultation.