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Satellite photograph of Typhoon Tip

A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center, a closed low-level circulation and a spiral arrangement of numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rainfall. Tropical cyclones feed on the heat released when moist air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor contained in the moist air. They are fuelled by a different heat mechanism than other cyclonic windstorms such as nor'easters, European windstorms and polar lows, leading to their classification as "warm core" storm systems. Most tropical cyclones originate in the doldrums near the Equator, approximately 10 degrees away.

The term "tropical" refers to both the geographic origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively in tropical regions of the globe, as well as to their formation in maritime tropical air masses. The term "cyclone" refers to such storms' cyclonic nature, with anticlockwise rotation in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise rotation in the Southern Hemisphere. Depending on its location and intensity, a tropical cyclone may be referred to by names such as "hurricane", "typhoon", "tropical storm", "cyclonic storm", "tropical depression" or simply "cyclone".

Pictured: Typhoon Tip

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The hurricane seen from the International Space Station.

Hurricane Ivan was the ninth named storm, the sixth hurricane, the fourth major hurricane, and the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed as a Cape Verde-type hurricane in early September. Ivan reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, the highest possible category, becoming the ninth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record and the only Category 5 storm of the season.

Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenada, which it struck directly at Category 3 intensity, and heavy damage to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and the western tip of Cuba. After peaking in strength, it tracked north-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to make landfall as a strong Category 3 storm in the U.S. near Gulf Shores, Alabama, causing very heavy damage. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it looped across Florida and back into the Gulf of Mexico. The remnant low from the storm regenerated into a new tropical system, which moved into Louisiana and Texas, causing minimal damage. Ivan caused an estimated $20.5 billion (2004 USD) worth of damage in the United States, making it the second-costliest hurricane to strike the U.S. at the time (currently the tenth-costliest U.S. hurricane).

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Gafilo 2004-03-06 0655Z.jpg

The MODIS instrument onboard NASA's Terra satellite captured this true-color image of Tropical Cyclone Gafilo churning in the waters northwest of Madagascar on March 6, 2004. At the time this image was taken, Gafilo has sustained winds of approximately 160 mph. Cyclone warnings had been posted for all of northwestern Madagascar.

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Did you know…

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  • …that according to an unofficial reanalyisis using the Dvorak technique, Cyclone Hina (pictured) had a peak intensity of 170 kt (195 mph, 315 km/h)?
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Tropical cyclone anniversaries

Andrew 23 aug 1992 1231Z.jpg

August 24,

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August 25,

  • 1873 - The 1873 Nova Scotia hurricane moved away from the Nova Scotia coast towards Newfoundland, after killing about 500 people and causing $5.9 million of damage.
  • 2017 - Hurricane Harvey (pictured) reaches its peak strength as a Category 4 hurricane, shortly before making landfall over Texas, which killed 106 people in the US and caused around $125 billion (2017 USD) in damages, making Harvey the second-costliest tropical cyclone worldwide.
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August 26,

  • 2004 - Typhoon Aere makes landfall near Xiamen as a weakening Category 1 typhoon. Overall, Aere killed a total of 107 people and damages of $300 thousand.
  • 2011 - Typhoon Nanmadol (pictured) reaches Category 5 super typhoon intensity as it made landfall over Gonzaga, Cagayan. In the Philippines, 38 people were killed by the storm, including $34.5 million in damages.

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