You are on page 1of 6

Tropical cyclone scales

Tropical systems are ocially ranked on one of several

tropical cyclone scales according to their maximum sustained winds and in what oceanic basin they are located.
Only a few scales of classications are used ocially
by the meteorological agencies monitoring the tropical
cyclones, but some alternative scales also exist, such as
Accumulated cyclone energy, the Power Dissipation Index, the Integrated Kinetic Energy Index, and Hurricane
Severity Index.

mph; 63 km/h) are labelled as tropical depressions by either the National Hurricane Center (if it is in the North
Atlantic or North-east Pacic Basin) or the Central Pacic Hurricane Center (if located in the North Central
Pacic Ocean). Should a tropical depression reach 35 kn
(40 mph; 65 km/h), it will receive a name and will be
classied as a tropical storm. If the tropical storm continues to intensify and reaches maximum sustained winds
of 64 kn (74 mph; 119 km/h) then the tropical storm will
be designated as a hurricane.[6] Since 2011, the Brazilian
Navy Hydrographic Center has started to use the same
scale for tropical cyclones in the South Atlantic Ocean
and assign names to them which reach 35 kn (65 km/h;
40 mph).[7]

Should a tropical cyclone form in the North Atlantic

Ocean or the North-eastern Pacic Ocean, it will be classied using one of the categories in the Sar-Simpson
Hurricane Scale. In the Western Pacic, tropical cyclones
will be ranked using the Japan Meteorological Agency's
scale. The Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC) in New Delhi, India also uses a dierent
scale to assess the maximum sustained winds of a tropical cyclone. In the Southern Hemisphere, the MtoFrance forecast center on La Reunion uses a scale that
covers the whole of the South West Indian Ocean. Both
the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the RSMC in
Nadi, Fiji use the Australian tropical cyclone intensity

The Sar-Simpson scale counts with ve dierent classications for the intensity of a hurricane, with a Category
1 storm having the lowest maximum winds, whilst a
Category 5 hurricane having the highest. Storms that
meet the 64-knot threshold, but do not possess maximum
sustained winds in excess of 83 kn (96 mph; 154 km/h)
are classied as Category 1 hurricanes. A Category 1
storm will be upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane if its
maximum sustained winds reach 83 knots. Tropical cyclones that possess wind speeds of at least 96 kn (110
mph; 178 km/h) are classied as Category 3 hurricanes.
Category 3 also marks the point at which the NHC and
CPHC classify strong storms as major hurricanes.[8] If a
hurricanes maximum sustained winds reach 114 kn (131
mph; 211 km/h), it will be ranked as a Category 4 hurricane. Storms with winds that surpass 136 kn (157 mph;
252 km/h) are of Category 5 intensity.[8] The SSHS was
originally created using both wind speed and storm surge,
but since the relationship between wind speed and storm
surge is not necessarily denite, the scale was changed
to the Sar-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS),
based entirely on wind speed.

The denition of sustained winds recommended by the

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and used by
most weather agencies is that of a 10-minute average at
a height of 10 m (33 ft). However, the Sar-Simpson
Hurricane Scale is based on wind speed measurements
averaged over a 1-minute period, at 10 m (33 ft) above
the surface.[1][2] The scale used by RSMC New Delhi
applies a 3-minute averaging period, and the Australian
scale is based on both 3-second wind gusts and maximum
sustained winds averaged over a 10-minute interval.[3][4]
These make direct comparisons between basins dicult.
Within all basins tropical cyclones are named when the
sustained winds hit 35 kn (40 mph; 65 km/h)

Although increasing echelons of the scale correspond to

stronger winds, the rankings are not absolute in terms of
eects. Lower-category storms can inict greater dam1 Atlantic and East Pacic
age than higher-category storms, depending on factors
such as local terrain, population density and total rainfall. For instance, a Category 2 that strikes a major urban
Main article: Sar-Simpson Hurricane Scale
area will likely do more damage than a large Category 5
hurricane that strikes a mostly rural region. In fact, tropThe Sar-Simpson Hurricane Scale is the classication ical systems of less than hurricane strength can produce
system used for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean signicant damage and human casualties, especially from
and in the Pacic Ocean east of the anti-meridian.[5] The ooding and landslides.[8]
Sar-Simpson Scale is based on 1-minute maximum sustained wind speeds. In these oceanic basins, tropical cy- Historically, the term great hurricane was used to declones with maximum sustained winds below 34 kn (39 scribe storms that possessed winds of at least 110 kn (125

mph; 200 km/h), large radii (over 160 km / 100 mi) and
that caused large amounts of destruction. This term fell
into disuse after the introduction of the Sar-Simpson
scale in the early 1970s.[9]

Western Pacic

Any tropical cyclone that develops within the Northern

Hemisphere between 180 and 100E is monitored by
the Japan Meteorological Agency's Regional Specialized
Meteorological Center in Tokyo, Japan, on behalf of the
WMO/ESCAPs Typhoon Committee.[10] Other warning
centres such as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical
and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA),
the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) and the
Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) also monitor tropical cyclones developing within the basin.[10]
Ocial classications
All classications from RSMC Tokyo are based on 10minute maximum sustained wind speed. The lowest category is a tropical depression having wind speed under 33
kn (38 mph; 61 km/h), while a tropical storm has wind
speed between 34 kn (39 mph; 63 km/h) and 47 kn (54
mph; 87 km/h). A severe tropical storm has wind speed
between 48 kn (55 mph; 89 km/h) and 63 kn (72 mph;
117 km/h), while the highest category is a typhoon having
wind speed above 64 kn (74 mph; 119 km/h).


English.[13] PAGASA also adopted the super typhoon category in May 2015 with wind speeds reaching 120 kn
(140 mph; 220 km/h) or more.[14]
Although most agencies use 10-minute maximum sustained wind speed, the JTWC uses 1-minute maximum
sustained wind speed and the CMA uses 2-minute maximum sustained wind speed.[10]

3 North Indian Ocean

Any tropical cyclone that develops within the Northern
Hemisphere between 100E and 45E is monitored by the
India Meteorological Department's Regional Specialized
Meteorological Center in New Delhi, India. Other warning centres such as RSMC La Reunion, the Bangladesh
Meteorological Department and the United States Joint
Typhoon Warning Center, also monitor tropical cyclones
developing within the basin. RSMC New Delhi uses a 3minute averaging period to determine the sustained windspeeds of a tropical cyclone.[15][16][17]
Ocial classications

The lowest category used by RSMC New Delhi, is a depression which have 3-minute sustained windspeeds of
under 27 kn (31 mph; 50 km/h), while a deep depression
has windspeeds of between 27 kn (31 mph; 50 km/h) and
33 kn (38 mph; 61 km/h). Should a deep depression further intensify, it will be classied as a Cyclonic Storm and
assigned a name should it develop sustained windspeeds
For domestic purposes, RSMC Tokyo unocially divides of between 34 kn (39 mph; 63 km/h) and 48 kn (55 mph;
the typhoon category into three categories, with a strong 89 km/h).
typhoon having wind speed between 64 kn (74 mph; 119
In cases where cyclonic storms possess wind speeds
km/h) and 84 kn (97 mph; 156 km/h). A very strong
greater than 48 kn, (88 km/h, 55 mph), they are classityphoon has wind speed between 85 kn (98 mph; 157
ed as Severe Cyclonic Storm. A severe cyclonic storm is
km/h) and 104 kn (120 mph; 193 km/h), while a violent
labelled as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm when it reaches
typhoon has wind speed of 105 kn (121 mph; 194 km/h)
speeds greater than 64 kn, (118 km/h, 74 mph).
or greater.[10]
A Super Cyclonic Storm is the highest category used to
designate tropical cyclones and have 3-minute sustained
windspeeds of above 120 kn (140 mph; 220 km/h)
Other classications
Some of the members of the typhoon committee use
scales varying from the Typhoon Committees one. Both
the CMA and the HKO use the Typhoon Committees
scale but divide their classications of typhoons into severe and super when wind speed reaches 81 kn (93 mph;
150 km/h) or 100 kn (120 mph; 190 km/h).,[10][11] while
the CMA also adopts a lower limit of Beaufort Force 6
for a tropical depression.[12]

Prior to 1988, cyclones were classied into 4 categories, which were depression, deep depression, cyclonic
storms(34-47 knots) and severe cyclonic storms(48 knots
or more). However in 1988 the IMD started to rate cyclones with wind speeds of more than 64 kn, (118 km/h,
74 mph) as very severe cyclonic storms.[17] The IMD then
made another change in 1998 to introduce a category for
super cyclonic storms, which are cyclonic storms with
wind speeds of more than 120 kn, (222 km/h, 138 mph)

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) merges the

severe tropical storm into the tropical storm category, and
also has the super typhoon category when wind speed 4 South-Western Indian Ocean
reaches 130 kn (150 mph; 240 km/h).[10] In addition,
the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) has its own scale Any tropical cyclone that forms within the Southern Inin Chinese but uses the Typhoon Committee scale in dian Ocean to the west of 90E is monitored by Mto-

France who run the Regional Specialized Meteorological
Center in La Reunion.[18] RSMC La Reunion uses seven
dierent categories to measure the wind speed of a tropical cyclone. It is based on a 10-minute average maximum sustained winds, rather than 1-minute maximum
sustained winds, which is what the Sar-Simpson Hurricane Scale uses.[18]
A tropical disturbance is the lowest category on the
South-west Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclone scale, and has
wind speeds of 28 knots (50 km/h, 32 mph).[18] A tropical
disturbance is designated as a tropical depression when
the disturbance reaches wind speeds above 28 knots (50
km/h, 32 mph). Should a tropical depression reach wind
speeds of 35 knots (65 km/h, 40 mph) then it will be
classied as a moderate tropical storm and assigned a
name by either the Sub Regional Center in Mauritius or

designated as a category three severe tropical cyclone.[22]

A severe tropical cyclone will be classied as a category
ve severe tropical cyclone should the cyclones maximum sustained wind speed be greater than 110 knots (200
km/h, 130 mph) and gusts be above 150 knots (280 km/h,
175 mph).[22]

6 Alternative scales

There are other scales that are not ocially used by any of
the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres or the
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres. However they are
used by other organizations, such as the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration. An example of such
scale is the Integrated Kinetic Energy index, which measures the destructive potential of the storm surge; it works
Should the named storm intensify further and reach winds on a scale that ranges from one to six, with six having the
speeds of 48 knots (89 km/h, 55 mph), then it will be highest destructive potential.
classied as a severe tropical storm. A severe tropical Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) is used by the
storm is designated as a tropical cyclone when it reaches National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and
wind speeds of 64 knots (118 km/h, 74 mph).[18] Should other agencies to express the activity of individual tropia tropical cyclone intensify further and reach wind speeds cal cyclones that are above tropical storm strength and enof 90 knots (166 km/h, 103 mph), it will be classied tire tropical cyclone seasons.[24] It is calculated by taking
as an intense tropical cyclone.[18] A very intense tropical the squares of the estimated maximum sustained veloccyclone is the highest category on the South-West Indian ity of every active tropical storm (wind speed 35 knots or
Ocean Tropical Cyclone scale, and has winds of over 115 higher) at six-hour intervals.[24] The numbers are usually
knots (212 km/h, 132 mph).[19]
divided by 10,000 to make them more manageable. The
unit of ACE is 104 kn2 , and for use as an index the unit
is assumed.[24] As well as being squared for ACE, wind
speed can also be cubed, which is referred to as the Power
5 Australia and Fiji
Dissipation Index (PDI).[25]
Any tropical cyclone that forms to the east of 90E
in the Southern Hemisphere is monitored by either the
Australian Bureau of Meteorology and/or the Regional
Specialized Meteorological Center in Nadi, Fiji.[4] Both
warning centres use the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale, which measures tropical cyclones using a six
category system based on 10-minute maximum sustained
winds.[20] This is dierent from the Sar-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which uses 1-minute maximum sustained

The Hurricane Severity Index (HSI) is another scale used

and rates the severity of all types of tropical and subtropical cyclones based on both the intensity and the size of
their wind elds.[26] The HSI is a 0 to 50 point scale, allotting up to 25 points for a Tropical cyclones intensity and
up to 25 points for wind eld size.[26] Points are awarded
on a sliding scale, with the majority of points reserved for
hurricane force and greater wind elds.[26]

7 Wind speed conversions

When a tropical cyclone that has wind speeds below 35

knots (65 km/h, 40 mph) forms east of 160E it is labelled as either a tropical disturbance or a tropical depression by RSMC Nadi.[4] If it forms to the west of 160E it
is labelled as a tropical low by the Australian Bureau of
Meteorology.[4] However if it forms to the north of 10S
and between 90E to 125E the low is labelled as a tropical depression by the Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
in Jakarta, Indonesia.[21]

The denition of sustained winds recommended by the

World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and used by
most weather agencies, is that of a 10-minute average at
a height of 10 m (33 ft). However, RSMC Miami and
RSMC Honolulu, as well as the Joint Typhoon Warning
Center, dene sustained winds based on 1-minute average
speed (also measured 10 m (33 ft) above the surface).[1][2]

If a tropical depression should reach 35 knots (65 km/h,

40 mph), it will be named by the TCWC or RSMC and
be classied as a tropical cyclone.[22] Should the cyclone
intensify further reaching maximum sustained winds of
65 knots (145 km/h, 75 mph) then the cyclone will be

Studies have shown that the two denitions are correlated, with the cyclones maximum one-minute wind
speed conventionally about 14% higher than its best tenminute one. (To convert from a one-minute wind speed to
a ten-minute wind speed, the one-minute speed is multi-



plied by 0.88. In the other direction, the ten-minute wind [10] Typhoon Committee (2012). Typhoon Committee Operational Manual (PDF) (Report). World Meteorological
speed is multiplied by 1.14 to produce the one-minute
Organization. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
wind speed.) This relationship is approximate, as the conversion factor varies with dierent land or sea surfaces
[11] Classications of Tropical cyclones (PDF). Hong Kong
and atmospheric stability.[27]
Observatory. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2012-07-27.

Comparisons across basins


The terminology for tropical cyclones diers from one
region to another. Below is a summary of the classica[14] Cervantes, Ding (May 16, 2015). Pagasa bares 5 new
tions used by the ocial warning centres worldwide.
storm categories. ABS-CBN. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
[15] Tropical Cyclone Operational plan for the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea (PDF). World Meteorological
Organization. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-23.

See also
Tropical cyclone naming



[16] IMD FAQ:How are low pressure system classied in India? What are the dierences between low, depression
and cyclone?". India Meteorological Department. 200806-24. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
[17] Best track data of tropical cyclonic disturbances over the
north Indian Ocean (PDF). India Meteorological Department. 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2009-07-19.

[1] Tropical Cyclone Weather Services Program (2006-0601). Tropical cyclone denitions (PDF). National
Weather Service. Retrieved 2006-11-30.

[18] Tropical Cyclone Operational Plan for the South West

Indian Ocean 2006 (PDF). World Meteorological Organization. 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-03.

[2] Federal Emergency Management Agency (2004).

Hurricane Glossary of Terms. Archived from the
original on 2005-12-14. Retrieved 2006-03-24.

[19] Tableau de dnition des cyclones (in French). MtoFrance. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-14.

[3] Tropical Cyclone Operational Plan for the North Indian Ocean (PDF). World Meteorological Organization.
2008. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
[4] Tropical Cyclone Operational plan for the South Pacic
& South-east Indian Ocean (PDF). World Meteorological Organization. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
[5] Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory,
Hurricane Research Division (2007-07-12). Frequently
Asked Questions: What regions around the globe have
tropical cyclones and who is responsible for forecasting
there?". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
[6] National Hurricane Center (2005).
Glossary of
NHC/TPC Terms. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
[7] Normas Da Autoridade Martima Para As Atividades De
Meteorologia Martima (in Portuguese). Brazilian Navy.
2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February
2015. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
[8] National Hurricane Center (2006-06-02).
SarSimpson Hurricane Scale Information. National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
[9] Fred Doehring, Iver W. Duedall, John M. Williams
(1994). Florida Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: 1871
1993: An Historical Survey (PDF). Florida Institute of
Technology. pp. 5354. Retrieved 2008-12-26.

[20] Tropical Cyclone Intensity and Impacts. Australian Bureau of Meteorology. 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
[21] Extreme Weather Warning 20-04-08 00z. Indonesian
Meteorological and Geophysical Agency. 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
[22] Frequently Asked Question 3 - How is a severe tropical
cyclone dierent from a non-severe cyclone?". Australian
Bureau of Meteorology. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
[23] Integrated Kinetic Energy. Atlantic Oceanographic and
Meteorological Laboratory. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2009-02-07. Retrieved 2009-0118.
[24] Tropical Cyclone Weather Services Program (06-012009). Background Information: The North Atlantic
Hurricane Season (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2008-01-16. Check
date values in: |date= (help)
[25] Kerry Emanuel (2005-08-04).
Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the
past 30 years (PDF). Nature 436 (7051):
PMID 16056221.
Retrieved 2010-02-15.
[26] Background Information: The North Atlantic Hurricane
Season. American Meteorological Society. 2008-12-19.
Retrieved 2009-01-16.

[27] Intensity Observation and forecast errors. United States

Naval Research Laboratory. 2009-07-04. Retrieved
[28] National Hurricane Center. Subject: A1) What is a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical cyclone?" Retrieved on 200802-25.
[29] Bureau of Meteorology. Global Guide to Tropical Cyclone Forecasting. Retrieved on 2008-02-25.


External links

Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres

US National Hurricane Center North Atlantic,
Eastern Pacic
Central Pacic Hurricane Center Central Pacic
Japan Meteorological Agency NW Pacic
India Meteorological Department Bay of Bengal
and the Arabian Sea
Mto-France La Reunion South Indian Ocean
from 30E to 90E
Fiji Meteorological Service South Pacic west of
160E, north of 25 S
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres
Indonesian Meteorological Department South Indian Ocean from 90E to 125E, north of 10S
Australian Bureau of Meteorology (TCWCs Perth,
Darwin & Brisbane). South Indian Ocean & South
Pacic Ocean from 90E to 160E, south of 10S
Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited
South Pacic west of 160E, south of 25S




Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


Tropical cyclone scales Source: Contributors: Julesd, Jerzy,

DocWatson42, Michael Devore, Bobblewik, Rich Farmbrough, Swid, Evolauxia, Hooperbloob, HERB, Jdorje, Miss Madeline, Matilda,
BD2412, Rjwilmsi, Dar-Ape, AySz88, Titoxd, JiFish, DVdm, YurikBot, Anomalocaris, RattleMan, Howcheng, Lexicon, Hurricanehink, Semperveritas, SmackBot, C.Fred, Momoko, Brianski, Hmains, Chris the speller, Jamie C, Mtmelendez, Icelandic Hurricane,
Coredesat, Thegreatdr, Rkmlai, Pierre cb, Joseph Solis in Australia, Meow, Nilfanion, Rracecarr, Preetikapoor0, Headbomb, AntiVandalBot, Davidpage, Denimadept, Uyer, Jason Rees, Jer10 95, Plasticup, Juliancolton, HiEv, Laager, Senorpepr, Oxfordwang, PDFbot,
Thunderbird2, BIsopp, Matthew Yeager, Andmark, Nergaal, Finetooth, ClueBot, Darkangleman, NuclearWarfare, Versus22, Emt1299d,
DumZiBoT, Ramisses, Nathan Johnson, HappyJake, Potapych, Cyclonebiskit, Addbot, CarsracBot, Jasper Deng, LarryJe, Lightbot, Iune,
AnomieBOT, DemocraticLuntz, Yellow Evan, Citation bot, Frumphammer, A.amitkumar, FrescoBot, Allstrak, Brad Polard, HOBOPOCC,
RandomStringOfCharacters, Tbhotch, Slightsmile, Dondervogel 2, H3llBot, Donner60, SBaker43, TropicalAnalystwx13, ClueBot NG,
Onano, Dubhghlas, Helpful Pixie Bot, Bibcode Bot, Paedric, BG19bot, Bencaradocdavies, Yowanvista, Kiewii, Haslantis, Jodosma,
Dustin V. S., Marco Antonio 2345, Typhoon2013, Monkbot, HMSLavender, Sagu singh, Orduin, Squelblack, Aceofspades 13452 and
Anonymous: 56



File:Cyclone_Catarina_from_the_ISS_on_March_26_2004.JPG Source:

Cyclone_Catarina_from_the_ISS_on_March_26_2004.JPG License: Public domain Contributors: NASA Original artist: Astronaut photograph ISS008-E-19646 was taken March 7, 2004, with a Kodak DCS760 digital camera equipped with an 50-mm lens, and is provided by
the Earth Observations Laboratory, Johnson Space Center.
File:Weather-showers-scattered.svg Source:
License: Public domain Contributors: The Tango! Desktop Project Original artist: The people from the Tango! project


Content license

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0