Tracking the Tropics: Differences in development basins around the world

Severe Weather

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The tropics are quiet as of Wednesday, July 15. While we got an early start with named storms this year, there has yet to be a hurricane in either the Atlantic or the Pacific Basin.

The Atlantic has had six named storms so far in 2020, the most recent being Tropical Storm Fay, which was the earliest sixth named storm to form since naming began. The earliest before that was Franklin in 2005, which formed on July 22.

Dr. Philip Klotzback recently tweeted that the greatest number of tropical storms to form before a hurricane in the Atlantic is eight. That happened in 2011. The first hurricane that year was the “I” storm, Irene.

The Pacific has seen three named storms this season, all of which have also been below hurricane strength. Only five other seasons in the eastern North Pacific have had zero hurricanes through July 14 since the satellite era began. Those seasons were 1968, 1987, 2003, 2004 and 2007, according to Dr. Klotzbach.

The last hurricane-strength tropical cyclone in the northern hemisphere was Cyclone Nisarga in the North Indian Ocean on June 3. Again, according to Dr. Klotzbach, this is the first time there have been zero hurricanes from June 3 to July 14 in the northern hemisphere since 1966 when the satellite era began.

The main development basins related to North America are the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific. However, tropical cyclones form in the different ocean basins around the world. The cyclones are given different names and even rotate in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere.

The term “tropical cyclone” is rather general and is used to describe an area of low pressure with tropical characteristics anywhere around the world. The different basins get more specific when referring to actual storms. Like in the Atlantic, a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 mph or greater is referred to as a hurricane.


The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and, of course, the tropical cyclones that form here form into “hurricanes.” Since the Atlantic Basin is in the northern hemisphere, the storms spin counter-clockwise. All storms that form in this region are monitored and covered by the National Hurricane Center.


The eastern Pacific Hurricane Season starts about two weeks earlier and runs from May 15 to Nov. 30. Similar to the Atlantic basin, those cyclones also form into hurricanes and spin counter-clockwise because they are in the northern hemisphere. The storms are also covered by the National Hurricane Center and by another organization called the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

The storms typically develop somewhere close to Mexico and move west or northwest.


The Northwest Pacific basin season is year-round. Storms that develop there are called typhoons with winds from 64 to 129 knots (74 to 148 mph.) If a cyclone has winds greater than 130 knots (149 mph) it’s called a super typhoon. Those storms spin counter-clockwise and are covered by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.


The tropical season runs from April to December. The storms from into “Very Severe Cyclonic Storms.” They are also covered by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) and spin counter-clockwise. They form near the equator and generally move north on either side of India.


The tropical season runs from October to May and the storms that do form are referred to as “Severe Tropical Cyclones.” Because they are in the southern hemisphere, the area of low pressure spins clockwise. These storms are also covered by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.


Storms there form from October through May and are referred to as “tropical cyclones.” They spin clockwise and are covered by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The cyclones form in the Southwestern Indian Ocean and move toward Madagascar and the east coast of Africa.


This season also runs from October to May. The storms are referred to as “Severe Tropical Cyclones” and spin clockwise. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center also monitors and tracks the cyclones that form in that region. They generally develop and move toward Australia as well as Indonesia and Singapore.

Tracking the Tropics is keeping you safe and informed this hurricane season. Watch every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET for a live weather update.

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