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Cyclones are storms with swirling clouds, powerful winds, and strong rains that start in the ocean. You have probably never lived through a cyclone because you will usually be warned about them. Learn about cyclones and how they form.

What Is a Cyclone?

Imagine being on a boat just off the coast of Australia when all of a sudden it gets windy and rainy.

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Pretty soon the wind is blowing so hard that you can’t stand on the deck of your boat without holding on, and the rain is coming down so hard that it hurts when it hits you. You look up in the sky and see a massive swirling cloud. You realize you had better get to shore, because it looks like a cyclone is forming! A cyclone is a powerful spinning storm that contains strong winds and rain.Cyclones are the same storms as hurricanes and typhoons. The different names have to do with where the storms form. Cyclones form in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, which is the ocean that borders Northeast Australia.

Hurricanes are the storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the east coast of the United States. Typhoons occur in Northwest Pacific, which is where Japan is.Being caught on a boat in the middle of a cyclone would be very scary and dangerous, but fortunately, people who study the weather can see cyclones as they form and before they ever make it to land, which gives people time to get out of the way.

What Causes Cyclones?

Cyclones get their start because hot air rises. Hot air over warm tropical ocean water rises, carrying moisture with it. As the hot air goes up, it creates an area of low pressure below it.

Cooler air rushes into this low-pressure area, creating wind. When the hot, moist air gets high in the sky, it cools and forms clouds. As the storm builds, the wind starts to spin the clouds.

When the swirling winds of the storm reach a speed of 74 miles per hour, the storm becomes a cyclone.The spinning winds of the cyclone cause it to move across the ocean, and if there is land in its way, the cyclone comes ashore bringing heavy rains and powerful winds. The storm can cause a lot of damage along the coast, but it loses strength as it moves farther inland because it doesn’t have any warm water to keep it going.

Categories of Cyclones

There are different categories of cyclones based on how fast the winds blow. A category 1 cyclone is the weakest cyclone, with wind speeds between 74 and 95 miles per hour. A category 5 cyclone is the strongest cyclone, with wind speeds exceeding 155 miles per hour. Being in a category 5 cyclone would be like being strapped to the roof of a race car!

The Eye of the Storm

Even the most powerful cyclone has a calm area in the center. This calm area is called the eye of the storm. If you stand in the eye, you will feel a light wind blowing and look up to see a clear blue sky, but don’t be fooled, as the cyclone moves over you the wind and rain pick up again.

Lesson Summary

A cyclone is a powerful spinning storm that contains strong winds and rain that swirl around a calm eye, or center. Cyclones form as warm, moist air rises over the waters of the South Pacific and Indian Ocean forming clouds and wind. When the wind speeds exceed 74 miles per hour, the storm becomes a cyclone.

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