Define Hurricanes and Cyclones

Many people hear the terms Hurricane and cyclones used on the weather channel, and in the newspapers.  This brings up the subject of are they the same or different?  If they are not the same, what is the difference between a hurricane and a cyclone.  Wise Geek tells you that hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all the same!  If they are the same, why use two terms?

For starters cyclones are windstorms mixed with water caused by temperature differences.  The air starts to circulate around a core and then spread out.  Wind speed increases and the cyclone can get large and dangerous.  A dust devil is a miniature cyclone that in general is harmless, lasting only a few minutes.  A tornado is a large version of the dust devil that is extremely destructive, lasting much longer.  When the tornado forms over the sea and stays small, the cyclone becomes a water spout.  If it spreads out and develops overall sustained winds winds of 74 miles per hour, you have a hurricane that can last days or weeks!

This means that cyclones can, and do, vary in size and wind speed.  How some actually form, such as tornadoes, is still debatable.  They all have a circular motion, and in the northern hemisphere this is reported to be counterclockwise.  What does this mean in regards to the question?  All hurricanes are cyclones, but all cyclones are not hurricanes!  Hurricanes are a subset of the set of cyclones! 

For those who do not understand the different between sets and subsets, it can be made simpler.  Terns are sea birds and all sea birds are birds, but many birds live in other places than the sea.  Hurricanes are cyclones that form, and feed, over the warm waters of the tropics.  There are other types of cyclones that form over the sea, such as tornadoes!  Can tornadoes form over the sea?  Yes, and they frequently do, but land birds can fly over the ocean!

So, now we know that all hurricanes are cyclones but all cyclones are not hurricanes, t here really is no difference..The reason for using two terms when they are the same is simple.  Weather forecasters and meteorologists, just like everybody else, can get bored using the same terms all the time!