• Hurricane, tropical storm and tropical depression: What's the difference?

    By: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , Irene Sans

    Updated:

    There are a ton of weather terms that might be easy to confuse including hurricanes, tropical depressions and tropical storms. Here’s the difference.

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    Tropical disturbance: forms over waters of at least (80F). It is an area of organized thunderstorm activity 100 - 300 miles in diameter which maintains its identity for 24 hours or more, and it's in the lower levels of the atmosphere (surface). If the disturbance acquires a spin, and winds of at least 30 mph. It is now called a tropical depression.

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    Tropical depressions form when a low-pressure area is accompanied by thunderstorms that produce maximum winds below 39 mph. 

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    As for tropical storms, those are more severe. Depressions become storms when winds reach between 39 and 73 mph. They also must follow a cyclone pattern to become a storm.

    Hurricanes are a step up from a tropical storm, with winds of more than 74 mph. Hurricanes are further rated into five categories based on their wind speed:

    Category 1: 74-95 mph

    Category 2: 96-110 mph

    Category 3: 111-129 mph

    Category 4: 130-156 mph

    Category 5: above 157 mph

    Trees bend in the tropical storm wind along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard in 2017 (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    Trees bend in the tropical storm wind along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard in 2017 (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Trees bend in the tropical storm wind along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard in 2017 (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    However, all three types of storms are fueled by warm, moist air near oceans in tropical areas.

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