Tropical cyclones, also called typhoons and hurricanes, usually occur at predictable times of year in distinct parts of the world.
They feed on heat that is released when moist air rises. So 'hurricane season' coincides with the months in which an area of sea is at its warmest:
Tropical storms lose their strength as they move over land. The range of error in the forecast of the path of a tropical storm can be significant. Even just a day before the storm arrives the forecast can have a margin of error of 50 miles.
Tropical cyclones can change directions in unpredictable ways. The Met Office website has details and statistics relating to tropical cyclone activity in previous years.
It’s difficult to accurately predict where, when and at what strength a tropical cyclone will strike, as they often veer off-course, change their tracking speed and intensify or weaken quite suddenly. It is advisable to follow local advice, which in some cases may be to leave the immediate area if a storm is heading your way.
If you are in a cyclone region during the tropical cyclone season:
Tropical cyclones can seriously damage and disrupt a country’s infrastructure. It may take time for airports to re-open, and there may be serious shortages of accommodation, food, water and health facilities.
Our ability to help British nationals may be limited (perhaps severely) in these circumstances. We do not have Embassies in every location likely to be affected by hurricanes, for example some islands in the Caribbean, and this is likely to also have an impact on the level of assistance we can provide in certain places.
The FCO would only advise against travel to an area or region if it was considered that the risks of travel there were too high.
A number of factors are used to reach this decision. Our travel advice will be regularly updated to reflect the latest information about a tropical cyclone as it passes over a populated area. This includes global reporting on severe weather systems from the UK Met Office, as well as regional sources such as the US National Hurricane Centre.
This information can change rapidly, however, so you should also continue to monitor the local media and local advice.
There is no difference. Hurricanes and typhoons are regionally specific names for a severe tropical cyclone.
Wind speed is used to categorise a tropical cyclone:
Tropical cyclones can cause damage in a number of ways: