Definitions

typhoon

typhoon

[tahy-foon]
typhoon: see hurricane.

Cross section of a tropical cyclone. A cyclone derives its power from the warm air and water found elipsis

Severe atmospheric disturbance in tropical oceans. Tropical cyclones have very low atmospheric pressures in the calm, clear centre (the eye) of a circular structure of rain, cloud, and very high winds. In the Atlantic and Caribbean they are called hurricanes; in the Pacific they are known as typhoons. Because of the Earth's rotation, tropical cyclones rotate clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern. They may be 50–500 mi (80–800 km) in diameter, and sustained winds in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) are common. In the eye, however, the winds drop abruptly to light breezes or even complete calm. The lowest sea-level pressures on Earth occur in or near the eye.

Learn more about tropical cyclone with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Kamikaze (神風) is a Japanese word, usually translated as divine wind, believed to be a gift from the gods. The term is first known to have been used as the name of a pair or series of typhoons that are said to have saved Japan from two Mongol fleets under Kublai Khan that attacked Japan in 1274 and again in 1281. The latter is said to have been the largest attempted naval invasion in history whose scale was only recently eclipsed in modern times by the D-Day invasion of allied forces into Normandy in 1944.

The first invasion devastated the Japanese. The battle took place on the beaches where the two forces met. The Mongols had several advantages; The Japanese were overwhelmed and began to retreat. Not knowing they had won, the Mongols feared the Japanese were coming back with reinforcements and also retreated.

During the time period between the first and second invasion, the Japanese built walls to protect themselves from future invaders.

Seven years later, the mongols returned. They found themselves unable to find any suitable landing beaches due to the walls. The fleet stayed afloat for months as they depleted their supplies and searched for an area to land. After months of being exposed to the elements, the fleet was euthanized by a great typhoon. The Japanese called it Kamikaze. The mongols never returned. The Japanese were saved by the walls they had built and nature's fury.

In popular Japanese myths at the time, the god Raijin was the god who turned the storms against the Mongols. Other variations say that the god Fūjin or Ryūjin caused the destructive kamikaze.

Recent research has found that other causes contributing to the invasion's failure included:

  • Many of the ships were requisitioned river craft with flat bottoms and wobbly masts, and thus unstable in rough sea.
  • Some of the ships had been poorly made, perhaps as the result of deliberate sabotage by Chinese shipbuilders who resented their Mongol conquerors.

The name given to the storm, kamikaze, was later used during World War II as nationalist propaganda for suicide attacks by Japanese pilots. This use of kamikaze has come to be the common meaning of the word in English.

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