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Hurricane Teminology

Official information issued by tropical cyclone warning centers describing all tropical cyclone watches and warnings in effect along with details concerning tropical cyclone locations, intensity and movement, and precautions that should be taken.

Best Track:
A subjectively smoothed path, versus a precise and very erratic fix-to-fix path, used to represent tropical cyclone movement. It is based on an assessment of all available data.

The vertical axis or core of a tropical cyclone. It is usually determined by cloud vorticity patterns, wind, and/or pressure distributions.

Center/Vortex Fix:
The location of the center of a tropical or subtropical cyclone obtained by reconnaissance aircraft penetration, satellite, radar, or synoptic data.

Eastern North Pacific Basin:
The region north of the Equator east of 140W. The National Hurricane Center in Miami, FL is responsible for tracking tropical cyclones in this region.

The relatively calm center of the tropical cyclone that is more than one half surrounded by wall cloud.

Eye Wall/Wall Cloud:
An organized band of cumuliform clouds immediately surrounding the center of a tropical cyclone. Eye wall and wall cloud are used synonymously.

Gale Warning:
A warning of 1-minute sustained surface winds in the range 34 kt (39 mph or 63 kph) to 47 kt (54 mph or 87 kph) inclusive, either predicted or occurring not directly associated with tropical cyclones.

High Wind Warning:
A high wind warning is defined as 1-minute average surface winds of 35 kt (40 mph or 64 kph) or greater lasting for 1 hour or longer, or winds gusting to 50 kt (58 mph or 93 kph) or greater regardless of duration that are either expected or observed over land.

A warm-core tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 64 kt (74 mph or 119 kph) or more. The term hurricane is used for Northern Hemisphere cyclones east of the International Dateline to the Greenwich Meridian. The term typhoon is used for Pacific cyclones north of the Equator west of the International Dateline.

Hurricane Season:
The portion of the year having a relatively high indidence of hurricanes. The hurricane season in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico runs from June 1 to November 30. The hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific basin runs from May 15 to November 30. The hurricane season in the Central Pacific basin runs from June 1 to November 30.

Hurricane Warning:
A warning that sustained winds 64 kt (74 mph or 119 kph) or higher associated with a hurricane are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

Hurricane Watch:
An announcement of specific coastal areas that a hurricane or an incipient hurricane condition poses a possible threat, generally within 36 hours.

Present Movement:
The best estimate of the movement of the center of a tropical cyclone at a given time and given position. This estimate does not reflect the short-period, small scale oscillations of the cyclone center.

Storm Surge:
An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.

Storm Tide:
The actual level of sea water resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.

Tropical Cyclone:
A warm-core, nonfrontal low pressure system of synoptic scale that develops over tropical or subtropical waters and has a definite organized surface circulation.

Tropical Depression:
A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 33 kt (38 mph or 62 kph) or less.

Tropical Disturbance:
A discrete tropical weather system of apparently organized convection--generally 100 to 300 nmi in diameter---originating in the tropics or subtropics, having a nonfrontal migratory character, and maintaining its identity for 24 hours or more. It may or may not be associated with a detectable perturbation of the wind field.

Tropical Storm:

A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 34 kt (39 mph or 63 kph) to 63 kt (73 mph or 118 kph).

Tropical Storm Warning:
A warning for tropical storm conditions including sustained winds within the range of 34 to 63 kt (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 118 kph) that are expected in a specified coastal area within 24 hours or less.

Tropical Storm Watch:
An announcement that a tropical storm poses or tropical storm conditions pose a threat to coastal areas generally within 36 hours. A tropical storm watch should normally not be issued if the system is forecast to attain hurricane strength.

Tropical Wave:
A trough or cyclonic curvature maximum in the trade-wind easterlies. The wave may reach maximum amplitude in the lower middle troposphere.

Source: National Hurricane Center

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