Weather Blog

What's the difference between a cyclone and tornado?

What's the difference between a cyclone and tornado?
When Cyclone Nargis caused massive destruction in Myanmar a few weeks ago, a lot of people wrote in saying that the media was using an incorrect term in calling the storm a "cyclone."  And many of those thought a cyclone was another term for a tornado.

But we were right --  the term "cyclone" is correct for this type of storm. Officially, a cyclone is a tropical based storm -- identical to a hurricane -- that occurs in the Indian Ocean or the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. A typhoon is the same thing, only it occurs in the Northern Pacific Ocean west of the dateline. In the Eastern Pacific and entire Atlantic Ocean, it's called a hurricane.  All the same storm, just different terms based on the regions who named them.  Just like different parts of the U.S. say soda vs. pop vs. Coke.

As for the tornado/cyclone,  in the U.S., some people took to calling tornadoes "cyclones" so it has become a term synonymous with tornadoes, but it is an incorrect term.

A tornado is a tornado; a cyclone is a hurricane, and a glass of Coke is a glass of Coke.... or pop.... or soda.