Following Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, people in other parts of the world are asking "what is a cyclone, anyway?"
A cyclone is another name in a different part of the world for the storms we in the United States call hurricanes.
In the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian Ocean north of the equator, the storms are called "cyclones." They are also called "cyclones" south of the equator in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In the Pacific Ocean, the same storms are called "hurricanes" if they form east of the International Date Line and north of the equator. Staying north of the equator and going west of the International Date Line, that lies west of Hawaii, the storms are called "typhoons."
The storms are referred to as hurricanes for the entire Atlantic Ocean, although only one hurricane has ever been reported south of the equator.
So, what's the difference between hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones? The answer is nothing. Collectively, they are called "tropical cyclones" and they are all equally destructive. South of the equator they spin clockwise instead of the counter-clockwise we are used to in north of the equator, but even still they are just as dangerous.
Outside the United States, most countries experience these deadly storms every year. Myanmar was just one example of an extreme storm slamming into an unindustrialized country. Similar death tolls and damage have occurred in many countries as result of tropical cyclones.
Tropical cyclones have hit the coasts of all continents except Antarctica.