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Ipanema beach in Rio de Janiero

Don't Let Hurricanes Ruin Your Travel Plans

Plan ahead for the cyclone season

Is your family prepared for the hurricane season? Ensure that they learn these cyclone safety tips before the storm arrives.

Additionally, you should always own a hand held weather radio (available for the US only) that will alert you to not only a hurricane's approach but also severe storms, hail and tornadoes.

As a safety precaution, if you're over the age of 55 years and planning to travel overseas, then you'll need to make sure you obtain travel insurance for seniors. Of course, if you're younger than this, then you should still obtain travel insurance just in case your luggage goes missing or severe weather causes you to miss a connecting flight.

If you live in regions where tropical cyclones occur you may want to consider trying to make sure that your house and windows are hurricane proof before you go.

This will do three things:

  1. It offers piece of mind by protecting your most valuable asset.
  2. It will prevent flooding and minimise debris from destroying your home.
  3. It will protect your home from burglars.

Many people each year are forced to leave their holiday destination in the Caribbean since they were menanced by these tropical cyclones during the Caribbean hurricane season.

Imagery of Global tropical cyclone tracks

Location and frequency of Tropical Cyclone tracks across the world

Map courtesy of:

Hurricanes are the world's most severe large scale cyclonic weather systems. They always form over tropical oceans when the sea surface temperature is above 79°F (26°C) and normally within the monsoonal trough. These cyclonic weather systems can span 1000 miles (1600km) across; the largest one had a diameter of 2200km.

Basic facts on hurricanes (same thing as tropical cyclones, cyclonic storm, typhoon)

The vast majority of tropical cyclones that form over the world's oceans do so between 20°N and 20°S. Additionally, two-thirds of all tropical cyclones originate in the Northern Hemisphere.

The winds around tropical cyclones rotate anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Depending upon the size of the tropical cyclone, you may not aware how close it is until it's almost at your destination. This is particularly true for the smaller sized cyclonic storms. For example, severe tropical cyclone Tracy approached Darwin, Australia during the late afternoon of the 24th December 1974 when the weather was still quite sunny. Most people couldn't believe that a cyclone was coming since the weather was too nice. Sixty five died as a result of this cyclone.

The winds circulating around tropical cyclones are strongest on the side it is moving towards. This is another good reason to move away if its heading towards you.

These tropical cyclones can form very quickly and may last for up to one week (sometimes even more) if they stay over the ocean. The wind speeds produced from the strongest tropical cyclones can reach up to 200 miles/hr (320km/hr) near the centre (known as the eye) of these weather systems. So if you want to travel in the tropics, it is wise to determine if the region you're going to is frequently hit by tropical cyclones.

World-wide tropical cyclone terminology

In scientific research, atmospheric scientists and meteorologists use the generic term tropical cyclone to classify a hurricane, typhoon, or severe tropical storm. They do this so it creates less confusion (for scientists at least) and also because the term can be used worldwide and thus is not restricted by region.

People in different parts of the world have adopted alternative names to suit their local language. So while you are travelling it is critical to be aware of these different terminologies.

While it's great to travel in the summer months throughout the tropics, you must make sure you know when the tropical cyclone season occurs so you can stay one step ahead of the weather if it turns nasty.

When is hurricane season in the United States?

Satellite imagery of Hurricane KatrinaWell...these dangerous cyclonic storms occur from 1st June - 30th November according to the U.S. National Weather Service. They are most frequent from July to September, as this is the time when 70% of these tropical cyclonic storms occur.

However, these cyclonic storms are more common in June and October in the Caribbean Islands.

The satellite image on left displays Hurricane Katrina in the days before it devastates New Orleans and the surrounding regions.

Photo taken courtesy of:

What areas near the United States are prone to hurricane formation?

They frequently form halfway across the North Atlantic Ocean between North Africa and the United States. After they have formed, they then travel westwards towards Cuba, Caribbean Islands and south eastern United States. Hurricanes also form on the other side of the United States near Hawaii in the Northeast Pacific Ocean and then track eastwards before generally hitting the west coast of Mexico.

Here is a short list letting you know where they've hit before in the United States with devastating consequences:

  • Coastal districts of Louisiana and Texas (Particularly New Orleans, Lake Okeechobee and Galverston/Houston respectively)

  • Florida Keys

  • Miami, Tampa,St. Petersburgh and Ft. Lauderdale (Florida)

  • Mississippi (coastal regions)

  • Carolina Beach/Wrightsville Beach/Wilmington (North Carolina)

  • Cape Hatteras (North Carolina)

  • Eastern Long Island (New Jersey)

The above list describes where the most severe hurricane has occurred in the past. Many of these regions are at or below sea level and thus are more likely to see widespread flooding. The most common locations where hurricanes hit nearly every year is in the southern parts of Florida as well as the coastal districts of Louisiana and around Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.

These thunderstorms act as giant evaporative coolers by drawing the colder air from high altitudes down to ground level. Unfortunately, as soon as the thunderstorm moves on, the temperatures begin to rise again.

Tropical cyclone locations around the world

Arabian Sea

The Arabian Sea region has two tropical cyclone seasons:

  1. Pre-monsoon (May and early June) - cyclonic storms rarely occur in both months within the same year
  2. Post-monsoon (October and November) - although some of these cyclonic storms form during September

On average the Arabian Sea records 1-2 cyclonic storms each year. Most of these cyclonic storms are quite weak and tend to fizzle out quite quickly. The most powerful cyclonic storms occur in either May, June or November.

The majority of these cyclonic storms form near the western coastline of India and from there move northwards towards the Indian state of Gujarat or track west or north-westwards towards Oman. If a cyclonic storm forms

There are seven countries affected by Arabian Sea cyclonic storms. These countries are written in order of increasing frequency (i.e. 1. being the least likely to be affected and 6, the most):

  1. United Arab Emirates - if it passes through the Gulf of Oman
  2. Iran
  3. Yemen - cyclonic storms periodically impact this country, the most recent one occurred on the 24-25th October 2008. They are more likely to impact Oman.
  4. Somalia
  5. Oman
  6. Pakistan - south-east of Karachi
  7. India - north-western state of Gujarat

Bay of Bengal

Cyclonic storms occur four times more frequently in the Bay of Bengal than they do in the Arabian Sea since sea surface temperatures remain higher for longer periods of time.

The Bay of Bengal cyclonic storm season runs from March to December:

  1. Pre-south-west monsoon season (March-May) - most tropical cyclones occur in May within this season
  2. South-west monsoon (June-August) - minimal cyclone activity throughout these months.
  3. Post-south-west monsoon (September-November) - the most common time of year for tropical cyclones formation with November by far having the highest frequency.
  4. December records similar numbers of tropical cyclones as September.

South-west Indian Ocean

The official tropical cyclone season runs from the 1st November to the 15th May, but generally, the more severe tropical cyclones occur in January and February.

The south-western Indian Ocean tropical cyclones affect the following countries:

  • Mauritius
  • Réunion - Owned by France
  • Rodrigues

The islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues are collectively known as the Mascarene Islands.

  • Madagascar
  • Mozambique
  • Mayotte - Owned by France

Where can you travel in the tropics and avoid hurricanes?

One of the safest locations in the tropics you can travel to in order to escape these severe tropical storms is within 300 mile (500km) either north or south of the equator. However...

Being so close to the equator, the incredibly humid conditions and constant high temperatures irrespective of whether it is summer or winter can make it quite uncomfortable for many people who only visit these regions once a year. The only respite from the high temperatures in this part of the world is from thunderstorms that occur almost every afternoon.

South America

If you want to travel to Peru or Chile in South America then you can be quite sure that these tropical storms do not normally effect these regions. However, on the 25th March 2004 a tropical cyclone formed off the coast of Brazil and hit the state of Rio Grande do Dul (which is located on the southeastern side of Brazil). Tropical cyclones are so rare in South America that most of the Brazilian meteorologists weren't sure if it was a typical cyclonic storm. After much debate, the storm system was named Cyclone Catarina (don't confuse it with the one that hit New Orleans named Katrina.)

The likelihood of tropical cyclones forming in South America is still incredibly low since the monsoonal trough rarely extends southwards into this part of the world. I wouldn't be too worried if you're planning a holiday in the summer months (December, January and February). Remember the seasons are reversed once you cross the equator

The position of the monsoonal trough frequently dictates the region where tropical cyclone formation will occur.


The western coastline of Africa is normally free of tropical cyclones. In comparison, the only countries that are impacted by tropical cyclones along the eastern African coastline is Mozambique (November to April) and Somalia (June to October). Tropical cyclones don't impact anywhere else on mainland Africa during these times.

Middle East

Cyclonic storms only travel near the mouth of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. They don't impact Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon or Syria.


All countries that lie on the equator are not affected by tropical cyclones. The coastline of Indonesia tends to miss out.

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