20. Tropical Cyclones

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Extending Weather

Depressions – Microclimates – Urban Climates – Tropical Cyclones

Lesson overview: In this lesson we explore the structure, location and names for Tropical Cyclones as well as some of their potential impacts.

Tropical Cyclones are intense and extremely damaging storms.  Fuelled by the transfer of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere they can grow into some of the most destructive weather systems on Earth. Tropical cyclones need specific conditions to form and intensify.  These limit the locations in which Tropical Cyclones are able to form.  Called Tropical Cyclones anywhere in the world, they are classified as Typhoons in the North-West Pacific and Hurricanes in the Atlantic and North-East Pacific. A Tropical Cyclone has a distinctive structure, consisting of a clear central ‘eye’, surrounded by extensive cloud bands that spiral outwards and may be hundreds of kilometres long.  They can have severe impacts, causing coastal flooding and widespread damage to both the natural world and human infrastructure. As the climate changes, the most damaging Tropical Cyclones are expected to increase in intensity.

Learning objectives:

  • To understand what weather and hazards are associated with a Tropical Cyclone.

  • To be able to describe the structure of a Tropical Cyclone.

  • To be able to explain how and why Tropical Cyclones form.

Key Teaching Resources

Tropical Cyclones PowerPoint
Tropical Cyclones worksheet
Hurricane Dorian student data
Plotting Tropical Storm locations using GIS – video.

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Tropical Cyclones_More for Teachers 

Alternative or Extension Resources

Further Tropical Cyclone teaching resources

A Hurricane is Approaching: a listening exercise based on a recent National Hurricane Center podcast. 

Tropical storm tracker: grid reference plotting practice

Make a Tropical storm case study infographic using this basic template

A blank Tropical Cyclone case study sheet

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Tropical Cyclone Challenge

Tropical Cyclone Teaching Resources

Overview document for teachers – START HERE.

At the bottom of the page, you will also find some further reading/ background information for teachers, if you would like to deepen your understanding of Tropical Cyclones.

Introduction to Tropical Cyclones

Resources for Teachers

Tropical cyclones – the basics PowerPoint.

What do you call a tropical cyclone – physical basemap

What do you call a tropical cyclone – cumulative hurricanes basemap.

Teacher resource – Tropical Cyclone basics answers.

Worksheets and Resources for Students

What do you call a tropical cyclone? (cumulative hurricanes or physical basemap)

What kind of storm?

Where, Why and How do they Form?

Our Tropical Cyclone Challenge– use the online interactive resource with accompanying worksheet to discover the recipe for a Tropical Cyclone.

Resources for Teachers

Tropical cyclones: where, why, how PowerPoint.

Thunderstorm recipe (teacher).

Worksheets and Resources for Students

Thunderstorm recipe

Making things spin.

SST exercise.

Homework task:

A long time ago

Tracking Tropical Cyclones

Resources for Teachers

Tracking tropical cyclones PowerPoint

Worksheets and Resources for Students

Japan Decision Making Exercise


Resources for Teachers

Tropical cyclones – hazards PowerPoint.

Hurricane Harvey Links

Storm surge worksheet- answers.

Hazard posters.

Worksheets and Resources for Students

Tropical cyclone hazards worksheet.

Storm surge worksheet.

Case study: Hurricane Harvey and worksheet.

Homework task:

Option 1: Hurricane Harvey case study and Hunting Hazards.

Option 2: Tropical cyclones worksheet

Option 3: GIS hurricane task.


Resources for Teachers

Tropical cyclones – Impacts PowerPoint.

Cyclone Idai Links

The many ways a tropical cyclone can kill you (teacher).

Worksheets and Resources for Students

The many ways a tropical cyclone can kill you.

The other effects a tropical cyclone may have.


Case studyCyclone Idai.

Extra: Tracking hurricane Irma.


Resources for Teachers

Tropical cyclones – responses PowerPoint.

Super Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda Links.

Worksheets and Resources for Students

Case study – Haiyan.

Response Decision Making Exercise.

Typhoon Haiyan disaster response.

Homework task: GDACS mapping exercise and maps.

Assessment Resource: Cyclone Fani Decision Making Exercise; Cyclone Fani DME resource booklet.

Background Information for Teachers

Extreme Weather (global)

A series of downloadable work schemes and associated PowerPoint presentations on extreme weather for AS/ A2 geography.

Produced by Martin Lawrence

Haiyan Yolanda

Tropical Cyclone Haiyan/ Yolanda

the earth
Image courtesy of the Dundee Satellite Receiving Station

Some useful links:

National Geographic










How Typhoon Haiyan Became Year’s Most Intense Storm 


http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/typhoon-haiyan-hits-philippines http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2013/nov/09/super-typhoon-haiyan-philippines-destruction-in-pictures





The Telegraph


The Sun


Other tropical cyclone/ hurricane resources on MetLink:

Tropical Cyclones worksheet looking at locations, climatology etc.

Tracking Hurricane Irma an online research exercise.

Using GIS for hurricane tracks and tropical storm risk (Developed by Bob Lang, teacher and GA consultant)

Extreme Weather (developed by Martin Lawrence) 

Background information about hurricanes and other tropical cyclones

Tropical Cyclones Basics

It forms over warm tropical waters where air is rising.

The water must be at least 26°C.

It begins with thunderstorms, then starts to rotate – anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere – with winds of at least 74mph.

It may be five to six miles high and 300 to 400 miles wide (though can be bigger).

It moves forward at speeds of 10-15 mph, but can travel as fast as 40 mph.

Hurricane Katrina