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Typhoon vs hurricane: What's the difference?

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This year's strongest typhoon in the western Pacific Ocean, Super Typhoon Haiyan, is wreaking havoc in the Philippines tonight with winds much higher than our most powerful Category 5 hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.  Super Typhoon Haiyan packs sustained winds of 175 MPH with gusts well over 200 MPH!  Compare that with our strongest Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds starting at a devastating 156 MPH, and you see that this super typhoon has record-breaking potential!

Now, you may ask, what's the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?

In the Atlantic Basin, tropical systems with sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher are called hurricanes.  It's the same for storms in the eastern Pacific Ocean.  However, in the northwestern Pacific Ocean (west of the International Date Line), a system with the same type of tropical characteristics is not called a hurricane. It's called a typhoon.

Nonetheless, Super Typhoon Haiyan is a monstrous tropical system with such powerful winds. The damage in the aftermath is likely to be devastating in the Philippines.

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