Now that we're actually getting some storms, I see references in stories to the Lesser Antilles, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. Aren't they one and the same?
The Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands and the Netherlands Antilles are the small Caribbean islands that together are called the Lesser Antilles.
The Leewards are the northernmost group of islands, a group that runs from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands on the north to Dominica on the south and includes St. Martin, St. Croix, St. Kitts, Barbuda, Antigua and Guadeloupe, among others.
The Windwards are directly south of the Leewards and got the name because they were more windward to ships sailing from the New World. Martinique is the northernmost island in this group, Trinidad the southernmost. In between are St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, the Grenadines, Grenada and Tobago.
The Netherlands Antilles are west of the Windwards, just off the northern coast of South America. Isla de Margarita lies farthest to the east, Aruba farthest west. Bonaire and Curacao are also in this group of islands.
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A hurricane by any other name
What's with calling storms in the Pacific hurricanes? I was taught in the Pacific they were typhoons and somewhere else cyclones.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hurricanes and typhoons are regional names for strong tropical cyclones. "A tropical cyclone is the generic term for a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection (i.e. thunderstorm activity) and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation," according to the NOAA Web site.
Once these storms contain sustained winds of 74 mph, they are labeled this way:
- Hurricanes, in the North Atlantic, the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the international date line (which roughly follows 180 degrees longitude, west of the Hawaiian Islands and east of New Zealand) and the South Pacific Ocean east of 160 degrees (roughly east of the Hawaiian Islands).
- Typhoons, in the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the international date line.
- Severe tropical cyclone in the Southwest Pacific Ocean west of 160 degrees (near the Philippines, eastern Indonesia and New Guinea) or the Southeast Indian Ocean east of 90 degrees (closer to western Australia and western Indonesia).
- Severe cyclonic storm in the north Indian Ocean (closer to India).
- Tropical cyclone in the southwest Indian Ocean (closer to Africa).