Drought is when a region receives below-average precipitation, resulting in prolonged shortages in its water supply. While it is relatively easy to define what a hurricane or earthquake is, defining a drought is more subjective. Droughts do not have the immediate effects of floods, but sustained droughts can cause economic stress throughout an area.
A hurricane, a large swirling storm, is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics.
There are five types, or categories, of hurricanes. The scale of categories is called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The categories are based on wind speed.
Category 1: Winds 119-153 km/hr (74-95 mph) – faster than a cheetah
Category 2: Winds 154-177 km/hr (96-110 mph) – as fast or faster than a baseball pitcher’s fastball
Category 3: Winds 178-208 km/hr (111-129 mph) – similar, or close, to the serving speed of many professional tennis players
Category 4: Winds 209-251 km/hr (130-156 mph) – faster than the world’s fastest rollercoaster
Category 5: Winds more than 252 km/hr (157 mph) – similar, or close, to the speed of some high-speed trains
The only difference between a hurricane, a cyclone, and a typhoon is the location where the storm occurs. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used. The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the eastern tropical Pacific every two to seven years. When the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken, sea surface temperatures start rising, setting off a chain of weather impacts.
El Niño means The Little Boy, or Christ Child in Spanish. El Niño was originally recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America in the 1600s, with the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean. The name was chosen based on the time of year (around December) during which these warm waters events tended to occur.
La Niña means The Little Girl in Spanish. La Niña is also sometimes called El Viejo, anti-El Niño, or simply “a cold event.”
La Niña episodes represent periods of below-average sea surface temperatures across the east-central Equatorial Pacific. Global climate La Niña impacts tend to be opposite those of El Niño impacts. In the tropics, ocean temperature variations in La Niña also tend to be opposite those of El Niño.
During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast and cooler than normal in the Northwest.