In meteorology, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth.
This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth due to the Coriolis effect.
Most large-scale cyclonic circulations are centered on areas of low atmospheric pressure.
The largest low-pressure systems are cold-core polar cyclones and extratropical cyclones which lie on the synoptic scale (aka large scale or cyclonic scale).
According to the National Hurricane Center glossary, warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale.
Mesocyclones, tornadoes and dust devils lie within the smaller mesoscale.
Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere.
Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars and Neptune.
Formation and progress of cyclones
Cyclogenesis describes the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones form as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract to form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, cyclones occlude as cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the cancer or subtropical jet stream.
Associated weather fronts
Weather fronts separate two masses of air of different densities and are associated with the most prominent meteorological phenomena. Air masses separated by a front may differ in temperature or humidity.
Strong cold fronts typically feature narrow bands of thunderstorms and severe weather, and may on occasion be preceded by squall lines or dry lines. They form west of the circulation center and generally move from west to east.
Warm fronts form east of the cyclone center and are usually preceded by stratiform precipitation and fog. They move poleward ahead of the cyclone path. Occluded fronts form late in the cyclone life cycle near the center of the cyclone and often wrap around the storm center.
Tropical cyclone formation
Tropical cyclogenesis describes the process of development of tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones form due to latent heat driven by significant thunderstorm activity, and are warm core.
Cyclones can transition between extratropical, subtropical, and tropical phases under the right conditions. Mesocyclones form as warm core cyclones over land, and can lead to tornado formation.
Waterspouts can also form from mesocyclones, but more often develop from environments of high instability and low vertical wind shear.
In the Atlantic basin, a tropical cyclone is generally referred to as a hurricane (from the name of the ancient Central American deity of wind, Huracan), a cyclone in the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific, and a typhoon in the Northwest Pacific region
Cyclones are an important topic in natural disasters or described as a natural hazards.