The different types of tropical systems

Tropical Explainer
Tropical Explainer(WCTV Pinpoint Weather)
Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 12:17 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season is well underway.

Sunday night at 11 p.m., Tropical Storm Edouard became the earliest fifth named tropical storm in an Atlantic hurricane season.

Closer to home, a tropical disturbance is moving through the Big Bend and South Georgia, bringing showers and storms to most of the area. But, what exactly is a tropical disturbance, and what makes it different from a tropical storm or a tropical cyclone?

Tropical Disturbance
Tropical Disturbance(WCTV Pinpoint Weather)

When discussing tropical systems, there are a couple definitions to keep in mind. First is a tropical disturbance, which is a loosely organized group of thunderstorms that has been around for at least 24 hours. These systems typically bring scattered showers and thunderstorms into an area. Tropical disturbances aren’t tropical cyclones, but with the right conditions, it is possible for them to strengthen into a tropical cyclone.

Tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes are all tropical cyclones, but tropical disturbances and post tropical cyclones are not tropical cyclones.

When a tropical disturbance strengthens and becomes more organized, meteorologists classify it as the weakest tropical cyclone: a tropical depression. Tropical depressions have a more organized, closed off, rotating structure.

Once wind speeds in the tropical depression pick up, the system is called a tropical storm. Tropical Storms have wind speeds between 39 mph and 74 mph. Once a system is a tropical storm, it receives a name, such as Tropical Storm Edouard. Once a storm reaches sustained wind speeds of at least 74 mph, it’s classified as a category one hurricane.

When a tropical cyclone weakens, the storm is then called a post tropical cyclone. Tropical Storm Edouard is forecast to weaken into a post tropical storm Monday afternoon or evening.

Even if a tropical system isn’t strong enough to be a tropical storm or hurricane, the public should still prepare.

“There’s been tropical storms that have caused more widespread flooding than even the strongest hurricanes and vice versa. There’s been many strong hurricanes, for example Hurricane Michael, that thankfully moved through quick so they didn’t cause flooding, but they caused extensive wind damage.” Wright Dobbs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee explained.

Every storm is different, and it’s important to monitor the WCTV Pinpoint Weather Team’s forecast and pay attention to information from the National Weather Service to see how each storm may impact your area.

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