Sailor Speak of the Week – Typhoon

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Definition

Noun

  • A strong tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean.

Origin

18th century. Origin is uncertain, but possibly from the Cantonese word, ta fung, meaning gale.

Comments

Ever wondered about the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon, and a cyclone? Well, the only difference is where they form. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), once a tropical storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour, it’s classified as a hurricane/typhoon/cyclone.

In the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific, the term hurricane is used. The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a typhoon. Meanwhile, in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the generic term tropical cyclone is used, regardless of the strength of the wind associated with the weather system.

(NOAA, 2019)

I find it rather funny that 74 mph is the designated wind speed. It seems like such an arbitrary number (there’s probably a reason for it). Not 70, 75, or 80! Nope! 74 mph = hurricane! OK…whatever you say.

Lots of these hit Japan every summer and fall. Although, I lived up north in Japan, so by the time the storms got to my area, they were little more than a windy and rainy day. Nothing serious.

References

NOAA. What is the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon? National Ocean Service website, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/eutrophication.html, 03/19/19.

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum.

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