The 7 Global Hurricane Basins

hurricane off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico
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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 feet (46 meters), and those situated a minimum of 300 miles (46 kilometers) 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
  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.

01
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The Atlantic Hurricane Basin

tracks of Atlantic tropical cyclones 1980-2005

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  • Includes the waters of: the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea
  • Official season dates: June 1 to November 30
  • Season peak dates: late August to 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.

02
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The Eastern Pacific Basin

tracks of all eastern Pacific tropical cyclones 1980-2005

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  • 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 a longitude of 180 degrees west)
  • Official season dates: May 15 to November 30
  • Season peak dates: July to 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.

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

The farthest edge of the Eastern Pacific Basin (a longitude between 140 degrees to 180 degrees west) is known as the Central Pacific or Central North Pacific 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 (CPHC) which is based at the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Honolulu, HI. The CPHC has the latest tropical weather forecasts.

03
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The Northwest Pacific Basin

tracks of northwest Pacific tropical cyclones 1980-2005

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  • 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 (longitude of 180 degrees west to 100 degrees east)
  • Official season dates: N/A (tropical cyclones form throughout the year)
  • Season peak dates: late August to 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.

04
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The North Indian Basin

tracks of north Indian tropical cyclones 1980-2005

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

This basin is the most inactive one. On average, it sees only 4 to 6 tropical cyclones per season, but 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 (IMD) has the responsibility of forecasting, naming, and issuing warnings for tropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean region. Consult the IMD for the latest tropical cyclone bulletins.

05
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The Southwest Indian Basin

tracks of southwest Indian tropical cyclones 1980-2005

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  • Includes the waters of: the Indian Ocean extending from the east coast of Africa to a longitude of 90 degrees east
  • Official Season Dates: October 15 to May 31
  • Season peak dates: mid-January to mid-February or March
  • Storms are known as: cyclones
06
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The Australian/Southeast Indian Basin

tracks of Southeast Indian tropical cyclones 1980-2005

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  • Includes the waters of: the Indian Ocean at 90 degrees east extending to 140 degrees east
  • Official Season Dates: October 15 to May 31
  • Season peak dates: mid-January to mid-February or March
  • Storms are known as: cyclones
07
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The Australian/Southwest Pacific Basin

southwest Pacific tropical cyclone tracks 1980-2005

Nilfanion/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

  • Includes the waters of: the Southern Pacific Ocean between a longitude of 140 degrees east and 140 degrees west
  • Official Season Dates: November 1 to April 30
  • Season peak dates: late February/early March
  • Storms are known as: tropical cyclones