What are Cyclones? Types, causes & Formation
Kids Development

What are Cyclones? Types, causes & Formation

Jun 12, 2023

A cyclone is a natural disaster characterised by a swirling system of strong winds that rotate around a low-pressure centre, typically occurring over the ocean. It is a large-scale atmospheric disturbance that typically forms over warm ocean waters and is fueled by the heat and moisture from the ocean’s surface.

Other Names of Cyclone

Cyclones are known by different names depending on the region in which they occur. Some of the common alternative names for cyclones are:

HurricanesAtlantic Ocean and North – Eastern Pacific Ocean
TyphoonsWestern Pacific Ocean
Tropical cyclonesIndian Ocean and South – Western Pacific Ocean
TornadosNorth America
TwistersInformal term used for tornadoes
Tropical stormsWeaker cyclonic storms

What causes a cyclone?

Cyclones are caused by a combination of specific atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Cyclones form around regions of low atmospheric pressure, typically found over warm ocean waters near the equator. As warm and moist air rises from the ocean surface, it creates a low-pressure zone. Surrounding air of higher pressure moves into this area, causing a continuous cycle of rising warm air. The moisture in the rising air cools, forming clouds. Over time, the system strengthens, developing a central eye where high-pressure air descends, creating a cyclone.

Factors responsible for cyclone formation and intensification include:

  • Warm ocean waters with temperatures above 26.5°C (79.7°F), providing energy and moisture.
  • Atmospheric instability, characterised by temperature and humidity variations, promotes convective activity.
  • Low vertical wind shear, allowing cyclones to maintain their organisation and intensify.
  • Coriolis effect, causing the rotation of air and the characteristic spiral motion of cyclones.
  • Upper-level divergence of air, supporting upward motion and sustaining the low-pressure system.
  • Favourable atmospheric moisture, supplied by warm ocean waters, for condensation and cloud formation.
  • Disturbances or disturbances in the atmosphere, such as tropical waves or low-pressure systems, serve as initial triggers for cyclone development.
  • Large-scale weather patterns, such as monsoons or trade winds, providing the broader atmospheric conditions conducive to cyclone formation.
  • Interaction with other weather systems, such as frontal boundaries, leading to the transformation of cyclones into extratropical cyclones.

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What are the Types of Cyclones?

There are 4 types of cyclones, namely Tropical cyclone, Polar cyclone and Mesocyclone and Extratropical Cyclones.

  1. Tropical Cyclones: These cyclones originate over warm ocean waters near the equator, usually between 5 and 30 degrees latitude. They are distinguished by violent thunderstorms, an identifiable eye, and powerful winds. Tropical cyclones are referred to differently in different parts of the world, such as hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and typhoons in the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Polar Cyclones: These cyclones form near the polar areas, notably in the Arctic and Antarctic. They are distinguished by cold air masses and arise in response to temperature disparities between polar air and milder air. Polar cyclones have less severe effects than tropical cyclones.
  3. Mesocyclones: Mesocyclones are cyclones that occur on a smaller scale during intense thunderstorms. They are frequently connected with whirling updrafts and can produce tornadoes. Mesocyclones are generally localised and have a limited duration.
  4. Extratropical Cyclones: These cyclones, also known as mid-latitude or temperate cyclones, form in the middle latitudes, distant from the equator. They occur due to temperature differences between warm and cold air masses. Extratropical cyclones are frequently connected with weather fronts and can bring rain, snow, as well as strong winds.

What are the effects of a cyclone?

Cyclones, with their tremendous winds and extreme weather patterns, may have far-reaching consequences on both human and natural settings. Cyclones can have the following effects:

  • Strong Winds: Cyclones generate strong winds that can inflict extensive damage to buildings, infrastructure, and plants.. Flying debris poses additional hazards.
  • Heavy Rainfall and Flooding: Cyclones bring torrential rains, leading to widespread flooding in low-lying areas. This can result in property damage, displacement of people, and disruption of essential services.
  • Storm Surges: Coastal regions near cyclones may experience storm surges, causing a rise in sea levels and posing a severe threat to coastal communities, resulting in coastal erosion and flooding.
  • Tornadoes: Cyclones can spawn tornadoes, which are rapidly rotating columns of air. Tornadoes can cause localised devastation and destruction in their path.
  • Landslides: Heavy rainfall associated with cyclones can trigger landslides in hilly or mountainous areas, leading to further destruction and blocking roads and infrastructure.
  • Disruption of Utilities: Cyclones often result in power outages, damage to electrical lines, and interruption of communication systems, affecting daily life and emergency response efforts.
  • Environmental Impact: Cyclones can have long-lasting environmental effects, such as deforestation, damage to ecosystems, and contamination of water sources due to flooding and debris discharge.

What precautions can be taken to prepare for a cyclone?

Here are some precautions to consider when preparing for a cyclone:

  • Stay informed with the latest weather forecasts and official advisories.
  • Prepare an emergency kit with essential supplies, including food, water, medical items and flashlight.
  • Secure home by reinforcing doors and windows and securing outdoor objects.
  • Familiarise yourself with evacuation routes and shelters in your area.
  • Establish a communication plan with family members and neighbours.
  • Keep mobile phones charged and have backup power sources available.
  • Safeguard important documents and valuables in waterproof containers.
  • Prepare for power outages with extra batteries, candles, and alternative power sources.
  • Exercise caution after the cyclone, watching for hazards and reporting damages or emergencies.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities, cooperate with emergency services, and avoid unnecessary travel during the storm.


Frequently Asked Questions

Ques 1: Name a few cyclone warning systems in India.

 There are several cyclone warning systems in India, including Area Cyclone Warning Centres, Cyclone Warning Centre, and National Cyclone Warning Centre.

Ques 2: Which is the strongest cyclone in India?

The strongest cyclone ever recorded in India was “Cyclone Bhola” in November 1970. Cyclone Bhola hit the coasts of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and certain parts of West Bengal in India.

Que 3: What is the difference between a cyclone, hurricane, and typhoon?

The difference between a cyclone, hurricane, and typhoon is based on their geographical location. Cyclones occur in the Indian Ocean, hurricanes in the Atlantic and northeastern Pacific, and typhoons in the northwestern Pacific.

Ques 4: Where do cyclones in India occur?

In India, cyclones are most common in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Cyclones from the Bay of Bengal threaten the eastern coast, including Odisha and West Bengal, while cyclones from the Arabian Sea threaten the western shore.

Ques 5: When do cyclones in India occur?

Cyclones in India can occur at any time of year, but the majority of them form during two main seasons: the pre-monsoon season (May to June) and the post-monsoon season (October to November).


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