What is the difference between typhoon and monsoon?
While both are natural meteorological occurrences, there are notable differences between them in terms of their features and impacts.
Both can have an impact on the region’s weather, but comparing monsoon vs typhoon gives you a better idea about where they differ from one another.
Understanding the differences is essential for forecasting and planning for the specific problems each brings.
So, how are they different in reality?
Monsoons are seasonal wind patterns that provide substantial rainfall over a prolonged period of time, while typhoons are violent tropical cyclones with strong winds.
Overview of the Difference between Monsoon and Typhoon
A typhoon is just another name for a strong tropical cyclone, one of the many storms that develop over tropical waters.
Such storms adopt regional names based on where they develop in relation to the antemeridian which is referred to more often as the international dateline.
On the other hand, an upgraded tropical storm is called a typhoon when it develops west of the dateline in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
Monsoons develop over the Indian Ocean and are characterized by a change in the direction of the prevailing winds blowing cold to warm.
These winds signal a change in the season throughout most of the tropical region.
Fact: Many different kinds of plants and animals are able to thrive in their natural habitats all because of the monsoons.
Know the Difference between Typhoon and Monsoon
Typhoons are driven by warm ocean water and atmospheric conditions, while temperature differences between land and sea cause monsoons.
Let’s talk more about the differences between both meteorological phenomena:
Formation of Monsoons and Typhoons
Monsoons are winds that develop in a zone that circles the Equator as a belt of low-pressure air currents, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
They develop in response to seasonal changes in land and sea pressure causing the winds to change direction when the landmasses heat up or cool down faster than the water.
Typhoons develop from tropical storms in the monsoon of the ITCZ.
Using the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the wave is upgraded to a typhoon when its winds begin rotating around a low-pressure center at speeds over 39mph.
The process is driven by convection using the warm ocean waters for fuel.
An Important Consideration
The rotating winds of typhoons create differences in air pressure in and around the developing storm, with the high pressure outside with a deepening low at the center.
This draws moist warm air in at the bottom of the storm, which rises to cool and form clouds higher in the atmosphere.
Conditions Necessary for the Formation of Typhoons and Monsoons
Typhoons form in response to temperature, humidity and pressure changes and the atmosphere’s interaction with unlimited supplies of warmed water.
It is a continuous convection process that generates enormous power.
It is subject to two phenomena:
- The Coriolis Effect
The Coriolis effect forces the developing winds into a direction of spin in relation to the equator.
On the other hand, windshear forces the wind to change direction to form the characteristic low-pressure eye and spinning funnel.
The Summer and Winter Monsoons
The summer monsoon is a weather system that covers areas the size of continents and it generates vast amounts of rain.
These rains are driven by the wind which abruptly changes direction at the beginning of summer as the air pressure over the dry land becomes lower than the air pressure over the ocean.
The change in direction blows rain-bearing winds toward land.
The winter monsoon is the dry season because the direction changes back to blow the clouds out to sea.
Duration and Frequency of Typhoons and Monsoons
In terms of duration, you will notice that typhoons are relatively short-lived and less predictable, whereas monsoons occur in a regular annual cycle.
Typhoons are very short-lived compared to the seasonal wet and dry monsoons that last several months.
The arrival of the wet summer monsoon in April and the dry winter monsoon in October are annual predicted events.
Typhoons are notoriously unpredictable and with global warming and higher sea temperatures they are becoming more frequent weather events.
They need a set of conditions to develop and they all develop in the same way, which is why typhoon warnings are given using terminology that describes chance and probability.
Fact: Typhoons and monsoons are separate and distinctive weather events that differ in their frequency and duration as well as formation.
Regions Affected by Monsoons vs. Typhoons
The best conditions for monsoon formation are in the region where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet.
It includes India and South Asia to the north of the equator and the northernmost point of Australia to the south.
It brings torrential rainfall to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos, India, and Pakistan.
There is another seasonally wet and dry monsoon region in West Africa, just south of the Sahara and the Sahel.
North America, Central America and South America also experience monsoon winds and heavier seasonal rainfall.
An Important Consideration
Any location near warm tropical and subtropical waters is likely to experience typhoons. Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and China have experienced the most.
Most of the typhoons originated in the north-western Pacific Ocean around the Caroline Islands and the Philippines.
Fact: The North American monsoon carries moisture from the warmed Pacific into the US Southwest, but dumps rain on Mexico.
The Impact of Typhoons and Monsoons on Agriculture
Understanding the impact of monsoons and typhoons on different ecosystems is also important.
And you just cannot ignore their impact on agriculture and the economy as a whole.
How Do Monsoons and Typhoons Impact Agriculture?
The intense downpours of typhoons and monsoons impact a country’s agriculture and economy.
In monsoon regions, such as India, farmers rely on the four wet summer months to grow crops for human and livestock consumption.
However, the amount of rain a monsoon brings is uncertain.
Sometimes it is too little or too much or none at all if the ITCZ shifts.
Whether the rain is from a monsoon or a typhoon within it, damaged crops and poor yields are economically unsustainable and cause dramatic falls in livestock prices impacting economies.
The Impact of Typhoons and Monsoons on Humans
In a typhoon the most immediate threat to life is flying debris but there is also a threat from flooding and storm surge.
Know What the Data Shows
During the 2014 summer monsoon in Pakistan and India, nearly 300 people lost their lives to landslides and home collapses.
Both events contaminate groundwater so dehydration almost immediately threatens lives.
Longer term, typhoons and monsoons are associated with various diseases and infections, such as:
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan took 6500 lives but 11 million people suffered its impact.
In 2015, across India and Pakistan during the dry drought hit the winter monsoon, 3500 people died in the extreme heat.
Importance of Understanding the Differences between Typhoon and Monsoon
Typhoons and monsoons are natural events with the potential to cost billions in damage and cause extensive loss of life.
Since they are increasing in severity, and in the case of typhoons, frequency, they act as proof that the ITCZ is more unstable and climate change is under way.
Populations are warned to expect more weather extremes, so administrations are taking action to manage the most immediate impacts of floods, surges and building collapse.
However, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005), US research unearthed that some people had difficulty with weather terminology, especially matching the threat level with predicted outcomes.
It resulted in a massive education program on how to prepare for and survive a major weather event.
An Important Consideration
There are now many disaster preparedness initiatives globally, each with the aim of educating populations on the best way to protect their property and lives with the stress that it could be sometime before help arrives.
Fact: The start and end of the monsoon season can have far-reaching effects on economies, particularly in the agricultural, touristic, and power generation sectors.
When learning about the difference between typhoon and monsoon, it is natural to feel a bit confused.
However, typhoons and monsoons are two types of storms that occur throughout different times of the year and have different effects.
Typhoons are devastating tropical storms that develop over the Pacific Ocean, whereas monsoons are seasonal wind patterns that cause a change in weather.
Understanding how typhoons and monsoons differ from one another can help communities prepare for and respond to these natural disasters in a way that protects lives and property.