Hurricane Ike from Space
The winds of a hurricane swirl around a calm central zone called the eye surrounded by a band of tall, dark clouds called the eyewall. The eye is usually 10 to 40 miles (16 to 64 kilometers) in diameter and is free of rain and large clouds. In the eyewall, large changes in pressure create the hurricane’s strongest winds. These winds can reach nearly 200 miles (320 kilometers) per hour. Damaging winds may extend 250 miles (400 kilometers) from the eye.
Hurricanes are referred to by different labels, depending on where they occur. They are called hurricanes when they happen over the North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Such storms are known as typhoons if they occur in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, west of an imaginary line called the International Date Line. Near Australia and in the Indian Ocean, they are referred to as tropical cyclones.
Hurricanes are most common during the summer and early fall. In the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific, for example, August and September are the peak hurricane months. Typhoons occur throughout the year in the Northwest Pacific but are most frequent in summer. In the North Indian Ocean, tropical cyclones strike in May and November. In the South Indian Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, and off the coast of Australia, the hurricane season runs from December to March. Approximately 85 hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones occur in a year throughout the world. In the rest of this article, the term hurricane refers to all such storms.