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Tropical Storms

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We use the term 'tropical storms' to describe all low pressure tropical weather systems such as hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones, including tropical depressions with clearly defined closed circulations.

We have plotted the course taken by all such storms over the 30 year period 1979-2008, and produced figures that show the month by month probability of storms passing within 600 kilometres (375 miles) of each destination for which we have climate statistics.

Obviously all storms vary in size and intensity, and being 600 kilometres (375 miles) from the centre is not the same as having one pass directly overhead. Nevertheless in some respects the overcast rainy conditions that occur for 3 to 5 days on the fringes of a storm can impact on your filming schedule as much as being hit directly.

These storms start in tropical oceans at roughly 10 degrees north and south of the equator from where they generally travel westwards before curving towards the poles.

In the Northern Hemisphere they form in the central Atlantic Ocean, the eastern and western Pacific, and in the northern Indian Ocean. The regions most affected are the Far East and North West Pacific where the largest storms are called typhoons and the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the United States Atlantic seaboard where they are called hurricanes.

In the northern Indian Ocean a smaller number of storms form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea where they are known as cyclones, while the storms that form in the Eastern Pacific, also known as hurricanes, generally head west into the empty ocean though the west coast of Mexico is often affected and very occasionally a storm will travel as far as the Hawaiian Islands.

In the Southern Hemisphere where all tropical storms are known as cyclones they form all through the southern Indian Ocean and to a lesser extent in the south west Pacific. The main areas affected in the Indian Ocean are the north west coast of Australia, and westwards towards Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar and eventually the coast of Africa.

In the South West Pacific the area affected stretches from the north east coast of Queensland eastwards through the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji as far as the western fringes of French Polynesia.

It is the warm oceans that fuel these storms so if they cross a coastline or travel polewards into cooler water winds quickly dissipate. However all tropical storms carry a lot of moisture so in their aftermath heavy rains can cause severe flooding far inland.

Though powerful, Hurricane Katrina was a relatively small storm. Photo courtesy of NASA
Though powerful, Hurricane Katrina was a relatively small storm. Photo courtesy of NASA.
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