The 7 Global Hurricane Basins

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Where do the World's Tropical Cyclones (Hurricanes) Form?

Map of the world's tropical cyclone formation regions. © NWS Corpus Cristi, TX

Tropical cyclones form over the ocean, but not all waters have what it takes to spin them up. Only those oceans whose waters are capable of reaching a temperature of at least 80°F (27°C) for a depth of 150 ft (46 m), and those situated a minimum of 300 miles (46 km) away from the equator are considered to be hurricane hotspots.

There are seven such ocean regions, or basins, around the world:

  1. the Atlantic,
  2. the Eastern Pacific (includes the Central Pacific),
  3. the Northwest Pacific,
  4. the North Indian,
  5. the Southwest Indian,
  6. the Australian/Southeast Indian, and
  7. the Australian/Southwest Pacific.

In the following slides, we'll take a brief look at the location, season dates, and storm behavior of each.

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The Atlantic Hurricane Basin

Tracks of all Atlantic tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Includes the waters of: the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea
Official season dates: June 1 - November 30
Season peak dates: late August - October, with September 10 the single peak date
Storms are known as: hurricanes

If you live in the United States, the Atlantic basin is probably the one you're most familiar with.

The average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 strengthen into hurricanes and 3 of those into major (Category 3, 4, or 5) hurricanes. These storms originate from tropical waves, mid-latitude cyclones that sit over warm waters, or old weather fronts.

The Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) responsible for issuing tropical weather advisories and warnings across the Atlantic is the NOAA National Hurricane Center. Visit the NHC page for the latest tropical weather forecasts.

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The Eastern Pacific Basin

Tracks of all Eastern Pacific tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Also known as: the Eastern North Pacific, or Northeast Pacific
Includes the waters of: the Pacific Ocean, extending from North America to the International Dateline (out to 180°W longitude)
Official season dates: May 15 - November 30
Season peak dates: July - September
Storms are known as: hurricanes

With an average of 16 named storms per season--9 becoming hurricanes, and 4 becoming major hurricanes--this basin is considered the second most active in the world. Its cyclones form from tropical waves and typically track west, north-westward, or north. On rare occasions, storms have been known to track north-eastward, allowing them to cross over into the Atlantic Basin, at which point they are no longer an East Pacific, but an Atlantic tropical cyclone. (When this happens, the storm is assigned an Atlantic name; thus "crossover" storms will appear on both basin's hurricane lists as the same storm, but with different names.)

In addition to monitoring and forecasting tropical cyclones for the Atlantic, the NOAA National Hurricane Center also does this for the Northeast Pacific. Visit the NHC page for the latest tropical weather forecasts.

Hurricanes in the Central Pacific Ocean

The farthest edge of the Eastern Pacific Basin (between 140° to 180°W longitude) is known as the Central Pacific, or Central North Pacific Basin. (Because it covers a small area and sees infrequent hurricane activity, it is often lumped into the Eastern Pacific Basin rather than standing alone as a separate, 8th basin.)

Here, hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30. The area's monitoring responsibilities fall under the jurisdiction of the NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center which is based at the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Honolulu, HI. Visit the CPHC page for the latest tropical weather forecasts.

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The Northwest Pacific Basin

Tracks of all Northwest Pacific tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Also known as: the Western North Pacific, western Pacific
Includes the waters of: the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean extending from the International Dateline to Asia (180°W to 100°E longitude)
Official season dates: N/A (tropical cyclones form throughout the year)
Season peak dates: late August - early September
Storms are known as: typhoons

This basin is the most active on Earth. Nearly one third of the world's total tropical cyclone activity happens here. In addition, the west Pacific is also known for producing some of the most intense cyclones worldwide.

Unlike tropical cyclones in other parts of the world, typhoons aren't only named after people, they also take the names of things in nature such as animals and flowers.

Several countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines, share this basin's monitoring responsibilities through the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. For the latest in typhoon information, visit the JMA and HKO websites.

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The North Indian Basin

Tracks of all North Indian tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Includes the waters of: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea
Official season dates: April 1 - December 31
Season peak dates: May, November
Storms are known as: cyclones

This basin is the most inactive on Earth. On average, it sees only 4 to 6 tropical cyclones per season, however, these are considered to be the most deadly in the world. As storms make landfall in the densely populated countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, it's not uncommon for them to claim thousands of lives.

The India Meteorological Department has the responsibility of forecasting, naming, and issuing warnings for tropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean region. Visit the IMD webpage for the latest tropical cyclone bulletins.

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The Southwest Indian Basin

Tracks of all Southwest Indian tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Includes the waters of: the Indian Ocean extending from the east coast of Africa to 90°E longitude
Official Season Dates: October 15 - May 31
Season peak dates: mid-January, mid-February - March
Storms are known as: cyclones

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The Australian/Southeast Indian Basin

Tracks of all Southeast Indian tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Includes the waters of: the Indian Ocean at 90°E extending to 140°E
Official Season Dates: October 15 to May 31
Season peak dates: mid-January, mid-February - March
Storms are known as: cyclones

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The Australian/Southwest Pacific Basin

Tracks of all Southwest Pacific tropical cyclones from 1980-2005. © Nilfanion, Wiki Commons

Includes the waters of: the Southern Pacific Ocean between 140°E and 140°W longitude
Official Season Dates: November 1 to April 30
Season peak dates: late February/early March
Storms are known as: tropical cyclones (TCs)

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Means, Tiffany. "The 7 Global Hurricane Basins." ThoughtCo, Mar. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/global-hurricane-basins-3443941. Means, Tiffany. (2017, March 1). The 7 Global Hurricane Basins. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/global-hurricane-basins-3443941 Means, Tiffany. "The 7 Global Hurricane Basins." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/global-hurricane-basins-3443941 (accessed June 18, 2018).