(Also know as tropical cyclones)
A tropical cyclone is a rapidly-rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by names such as hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone.
Tropical cyclones typically form over large bodies of relatively warm water. They derive their energy from the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately recondenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation.
The strong rotating winds of a tropical cyclone are a result of the (partial) conservation of angular momentum imparted by the Earth's rotation as air flows inwards toward the axis of rotation. As a result, they rarely form within 5° of the equator. Tropical cyclones are typically between 100 and 4,000 km (62 and 2,485 mi) in diameter. A cyclone is turned into a hurricane when the wind speed reaches 75 mph.
The term "tropical" refers to the geographical origin of these systems, which usually form over the tropical oceans. The term "cyclone" refers to their cyclonic nature, with wind blowing counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The opposite direction of circulation is due to the Coriolis force (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect).
In addition to strong winds and rain, tropical cyclones are capable of generating high waves, damaging storm surge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_surge), and tornadoes. They typically weaken rapidly over land where they are cut off from their primary energy source. For this reason, coastal regions are particularly vulnerable to damage from a tropical cyclone as compared to inland regions. Heavy rains, however, can cause significant flooding inland, and storm surges can produce extensive coastal flooding up to 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the coastline.