Is the term “cyclone” only used for storms in the Pacific or in Asia?

Ask Tom Why
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Dear Tom,

You recently referred to the January 25-27, 1978 blizzard as a cyclone. Isn’t that term only used for storms in the Pacific or Asia?

Bob Evans

Dear Bob,

A cyclone is defined any low-pressure system. In popular United States usage, “cyclone” is applied loosely to tornadoes, waterspouts, dust storms, hurricanes and even to any strong wind, so the cyclone reference to the 1978 blizzard is correct. You were probably thinking of tropical cyclones which are assigned regionally-specific names. These storms are called hurricanes in the Atlantic, Caribbean and eastern Pacific and typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean. In the North Indian Ocean including the Bay of Bengal they are called severe cyclonic storms and around Australia they are known as severe tropical cyclones. In the South Indian Ocean east of Africa, they are referred to as tropical cyclones.


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