LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – There are so many fancy words for storms, but all ultimately describe various stages of a tropical cyclone.

You might hear words such as tropical wave, or tropical disturbance.

These terms all describe a cluster of thunderstorms that have the potential to organize into a tropical cyclone.

First thing is first, what is a tropical cyclone?

Tropical Cyclone

It is defined as a cluster of storms organized around a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center (low) that develops over tropical sub-tropical waters. All tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes are tropical cyclones.

This is where it gets tricky. Tropical cyclones are broken down into different categories based on sustained wind speeds.

Tropical Depression

A tropical depression is the “weakest category” of organized tropical activity. It is a tropical cyclone with max sustained surface wind speed 39 miles per hour or less.

Tropical Storm

A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone with max sustained surface wind of 39 miles per hour to 73 miles per hour. At this stage, the storm gets named. There is a strict procedure with the naming of tropical storms established by the World Meteorological Organization.

In the Atlantic, there is an alphabetical list of male and female names that are rotated every six years. Once in a while, a name could be retired if that storm is historic.


A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with max sustained surface wind of 74 miles per hour or more.

Tropical Cyclones can go from tropical depressions to hurricanes and vice versa in a matter of hours. No matter the name, always have a trusted source for information.

For a list of names, click here.