What Is a Tropical Storm? (And How It Works)

What Is a Tropical Storm? (And How It Works)

If you live in the United States, you’re officially in hurricane season. Summer and early fall are prime seasons for storms, but hurricanes aren’t the only weather threat people face.

So what is a tropical storm exactly? Tropical storms (also known as tropical cyclones) are more common than hurricanes, and by the time some hurricanes make landfall they’re downgraded to a tropical storm. But don’t let the word “downgrade” fool you, tropical storms can be just as dangerous as a hurricane.

What Is A Tropical Storm?

In order to understand what a tropical storm is, you have to understand the elements that go into creating one. There are a variety of tropical weather patterns that play a role forming tropical storms.

Tropical storms start off as tropical depressions. A tropical depression occurs when a low-pressure area and thunderstorms combine and produce a circular wind flow with maximum sustained winds below 39 mph. Most tropical depression winds stay between 25 and 35 miles per hour.

The next step up from a tropical depression is a tropical storm. In order for a tropical storm to form,  cyclonic circulation needs to become more stable and wind gusts need to be between 39 mph and 73 mph. It’s important to remember that tropical depressions don’t get names, but storms do.

Why Do Tropical Storms Form?

If you’re thinking about tropical storms, you may also be curious about why they form. Like with many storms, the conditions for a tropical storm to form need to be just right.

When it comes to tropical storms, the environment is everything. Sea surface temperatures need to be warm, usually around 79 degrees Fahrenheit. There also needs to be high relative humidity from the surface up through the lower levels of the troposphere and low atmospheric wind shear.

These elements alone aren’t enough to make a tropical storm form, you also need some chaotic weather in the atmosphere. A cluster of thunderstorms or some cyclonic circulation paired with other factors makes the perfect environment for a tropical storm to form.

How Do I Prepare For a Tropical Storm?

If you’re asking the question what is a tropical storm, you need to be prepared for dealing with one. Even if you don’t live in an area that’s prone to tropical storms, you could end up traveling to one. Having storm prep knowledge could help you in a dangerous situation.

If you’re concerned about safety during a tropical storm, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Have a way to get updates from government officials and weather reporters. A solid emergency radio can help during storms. You should also be sure to have your phone charged during a storm.
  • Be sure to have food and water before a storm. You may not be able to go food shopping for a few days, and water lines could become damaged or polluted.
  • Always take evacuation orders seriously, don’t try to “wait out” serious storms.
  • Protect property as best as you can. This can include securing windows and doors or taking care of weak nearby tree branches before they have the chance to detach and harm your property.
  • Have contact information for emergency electricians, plumbers, or other services for after the storm.

Have you been through a tropical storm before? Do you have tips that could help readers? Be sure to tell us about it in our comments section!

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