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An ocean storm may refer to any storm in the ocean, but most commonly refers to cyclonic systems that begin or gain strength at sea. These storms get the most attention when they come in the form of tropical cyclones, but these cyclones represent just one portion of the ocean storm systems in the world. An ocean storm system can be a very serious event, and can threaten ships at sea, as well as property on land.
Cyclones are storms that have an air mass that rotates around a low pressure center. The closer to the center of this type of ocean storm, the more severe the winds will be, but the entire storm system can still be quite dangerous. In the Northern Hemisphere, these systems rotate counterclockwise. The opposite rotation is seen in the Southern Hemisphere.
The reason why tropical cyclones get the most media attention is because they are the single-most destructive weather events on Earth, if they make landfall. In the Atlantic Ocean, ocean storm systems come off the coast of Africa, and gather strength over warm water as they travel to the west, and may eventually threaten land in the Caribbean, as well as the American continents. These systems may also weaken or turn away from land, eventually losing strength in wind shear or while over cooler water.
Hurricanes also form in other parts of the Earth, though they are usually called cyclones or typhoons if they form outside of the Atlantic. They form in both the Pacific and Indian oceans in locations where the water is warmer. In these areas, they can threaten lower Asia, Baja California or Mexico. In some cases, these ocean storm systems may be even more serious than Atlantic hurricanes, because of lax building standards and higher populations in coastal areas.
In addition to tropical cyclones, there are other cyclones named by the latitudes at which they are found. These include extra-tropical cyclones, mid-latitude cyclones and polar lows. While these systems are generally not as strong as tropical systems, they can cause damage. Ships may be forced to seek alternate routes in order to avoid higher ocean storm waves.
Not only do these storms cause problems on the high seas, they can also cause problems near shore and onshore, even if they never hit land. Strong ocean currents and high waves have the potential to overwhelm swimmers, which is why many communities shut down beaches when a storm is in the area. Also, high seas can cause significant beach erosion, leading to expensive restoration efforts.