Hurricane Vs Typhoon: As Lane and Soulik Head Toward Hawaii and South Korea, What's the Difference?

There are two storms brewing in the Pacific Ocean: One is headed for Hawaii while the other tracks in the direction of South Korea.

Both storms are expected to hit by the end of the week local time. Typhoon Soulik is moving toward South Korea, while Hawaii braces for Hurricane Lane—already a Category 5 storm.

Typhoon #Soulik barrels toward southern #Japan. Stay safe!

— Ricky Arnold (@astro_ricky) August 20, 2018

While the two storms are both forming in the Pacific, they have the different names of hurricane and typhoon. The difference in name has to do with where the storm actually happens.

When both of the storms originally formed, they were considered tropical cyclones, the generic term for "a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed, low-level circulation," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

There are different strengths to tropical cyclones, and the strength determines the classification the storm has. The weakest of the storms are called tropical depressions. Once the maximum sustained wind speeds reach 39 miles per hour or faster, it becomes a tropical storm.

From there, the next speed up is 74 mph. Any tropical cyclone with maximum sustained wind speeds of 74 mph or higher is then classified as a hurricane, typhoon or tropical cyclone, depending on the location of the storm.

Storms around the coastline of the United States—storms in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific and eastern North Pacific—are referred to as hurricanes, according to NOAA. Lane is in the central North Pacific, earning it the title of hurricane. As of Wednesday, it was classified as a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the strongest rating there is for hurricanes typically meaning there could be catastrophic damage.

Soulik is in the region of the world that uses the term typhoon for these storms, the Northwest Pacific. In the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, the storms are just called tropical cyclones, the generic term that includes both hurricane and typhoon.

So while the two storms Soulik and Lane seem to have different classifications, they merely have two different names that mean essentially the same thing: That they're both tropical cyclones.

hurricane nasa photo
Earth Observation taken during a day pass by the Expedition 40 crew aboard the International Space Station of a hurricane. NASA