Subtropical cyclone

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A subtropical cyclone is a weather system that has some characteristics of a tropical and an extratropical cyclone. As early as the 1950s, meteorologists were unclear whether they should be characterized as tropical or extratropical cyclones. They were officially recognized by the National Hurricane Center in 1972. Subtropical cyclones began to receive names from the official tropical cyclone lists in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin and the southwest Indian ocean.

There are two definitions currently used for subtropical cyclones. Across the north Atlantic and southwest Indian ocean, they require central convection fairly near the center and a warming core in the mid-levels of the troposphere. Across the eastern half of the northern Pacific, they require a mid-tropospheric cyclone to cut off from the main belt of the westerlies and only a weak surface circulation. Subtropical cyclones have broad wind patterns with maximum sustained winds located farther from the center than typical tropical cyclones, and have no weather fronts linked into their center.

Since they form from initially extratropical cyclones which have colder temperatures aloft than normally found in the tropics, the sea surface temperatures required for their formation are lower than the tropical cyclone threshold by 3°C (5°F), lying around 23 °C (73 °F). This also means that subtropical cyclones are more likely to form outside the traditional bounds of the hurricane season.

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History of term

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the term semi-tropical and quasi-tropical were used for what would become known as subtropical cyclones.[1] The term subtropical cyclone merely referred to any cyclone located in the subtropical belt near and just north of the horse latitudes. Intense debate ensued in the late 1960s, after a number of hybrid cyclones formed in the Atlantic Basin. In 1972, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) finally designated these storms as subtropical cyclones in real-time,[2] and updated the hurricane database to include subtropical cyclones from 1968 through 1971. The whimsical term "neutercane" was coined by Bob Bundgaard for small subtropical cyclones which formed from mesoscale features, and the NHC began issuing public statements during the 1972 Atlantic hurricane season employing that classification. This name was not noted as controversial in contemporary news reports, but it was dropped less than a year later. Recent articles, published after the year 2000, have suggested that the name "neutercane" was considered sexist in the 1970s, but there do not appear to be any published reports from that period making this claim.[3]

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