A study of intense hurricane-type vortices in the ECMWF operational model is reported. These vortices develop around day 4 in the forecast and occur in the tropical belt in areas and at times where intense tropical cyclones normally occur. The frequency resembles that observed over most tropical regions with a pronounced maximum in the western North Pacific. The life time of the vortices and their 3-dimensional structure agree in some fundamental way with observations although, because of the resolution, the systems are less intense than the observed ones. The general large-scale conditions for active and inactive cyclone periods are discussed. The model cyclones are sensitive to the sea-surface temperature and do not develop with sea surface temperatures lower than 28–29°C. The dynamical conditions favouring cyclone development are characterized by intense large-scale divergence in the upper troposphere. Cyclogenesis appears to take place when these conditions are found outside the equatorial zone and over oceans where the water is sufficiently warm.