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

    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, and tropical disturbances 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. 

    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.

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    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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