What are the differences between hurricanes and tornadoes

hurricanes and tornadoes

If we had to comment on which are the two most destructive and devastating meteorological phenomena that exist on the planet, there would be no doubt that they are hurricanes and tornadoes.

Usually there is a bit of confusion when it comes to differentiating them, that is why I will explain below the characteristics of each of them so that from now on you know which is one and which is another.

Differences between tornado and hurricane

The first big difference is the place where they start to be created. In the case of tornadoes, they always form on land or in coastal areas very close to land. On the contrary, hurricanes will always form in the oceans and it is impossible that they can be created on earth. Another notable difference between the two phenomena must be observed in the speed of their winds. The speed in tornadoes is much higher than in hurricanes, and the wind can reach it in extreme cases that 500 km/h. In the case of hurricanes, the wind speed rarely exceeds the 250 km / h.


In terms of size, there are also big differences since a normal or medium tornado usually has a diameter of about 400 0 500 meters. Hurricanes, however, tend to be much larger since their diameter can reach the 1500 kilometers. In relation to the life span of one and the other there are also great differences. Tornadoes are usually short-lived and their life span can last a few minutes. On the contrary, the life of the hurricane is much longer, lasting up to several weeks. As a recent example, I can cite Hurricane Nadine that was active no less than 22 days, but we also have Hurricane Irma which has been the most powerful in history in the Atlantic.

The last difference between the two refers to the issue of prediction. The tornado is much more difficult to forecast than in the case of the hurricane, which is easier to predict its path and place of formation.

If you want to know a little more about tornadoes or hurricanes, keep reading because we still have a lot of information to give you on the subject.

What is a tornado?

What is a tornado

A tornado is a mass of air that forms with high angular velocity. The ends of the tornado are located between the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud. It is a cyclonic atmospheric phenomenon with a large amount of energy, although they usually last a short time.

The tornadoes that are formed can have different sizes and shapes and the time they usually last round between a few seconds and more than an hour. The best known tornado morphology is funnel cloud, whose narrow end touches the ground and is usually surrounded by a cloud that is dragging all the dust and debris around it.

The speed that tornadoes can reach are between 65 and 180 km / h and can be 75 meters wide. Tornadoes do not sit still where they form, but rather move across the territory. They normally travel up to several kilometers before disappearing.

The most extreme can have winds with speeds that can rotate at 450 km / h or more, measure up to 2 km wide and remain touching the ground for more than 100 km of route.

How a tornado form?

How a tornado form

Tornadoes are born from thunderstorms and are often accompanied by hail. For a tornado to form, conditions of changes in the direction and speed of a storm, creating a rotating effect horizontally. When this effect occurs, a vertical cone is created through which the air rises and rotates within the storm.

The meteorological phenomena that promote the appearance of tornadoes tend to act more during the day than at night (especially at dusk) and in the time of spring and autumn year. This means that a tornado is more likely to form in spring and autumn and during the day, that is, they are more frequent at these times. However, tornadoes can occur at any time of day and on any day of the year.

Characteristics and consequences of a tornado

Aftermath of a tornado

The tornado is actually invisible, only when it carries the condensed water droplets from a humid air storm and the dust and debris on the ground, it turns gray.

Tornadoes are classified as weak, strong, or violent storms. Violent tornadoes make up only two percent of all tornadoes, but cause 70 percent of all deaths and it can last an hour or more. Among the damages caused by a tornado we find:

  • People, cars and entire buildings thrown through the air
  • Serious injuries
  • Deaths caused by hitting flying debris
  • Damages in agriculture
  • Destroyed homes

Meteorologists do not have as much facility in predicting tornadoes as hurricanes. However, by knowing the meteorological variables that determine the formation of a tornado, specialists can warn of the presence of a tornado well in advance to save lives. Nowadays the warning time for a tornado is 13 minutes.

Tornadoes can also be identified by some signs from the sky such as a sudden turning very dark and greenish in color, a large hailstorm, and a powerful roar like that of a locomotive.

What is a hurricane?

What is a hurricane

Hurricanes are classified as storms strongest and most violent on earth. To call a hurricane there are different names such as typhoons or cyclones, depending on where they occur. The scientific term is tropical cycle.

Only tropical cyclones that form over the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific Ocean are called hurricanes.

How is a hurricane formed?

How is a hurricane formed

For a hurricane to form, there must be a large mass of warm and humid air (usually tropical air has these characteristics). This warm and humid air is used by the hurricane as fuel, hence it usually forms near the equator.

The air rises from the surface of the oceans, leaving the lowest area with less air. This creates a zone of low atmospheric pressure near the ocean, since there is less amount of air per unit volume.

In the global circulation of air around the planet, air masses move from where there is more air to where there is less, that is, from areas of high to low pressure. When the air around the area that has been left with a low pressure moves to fill that "gap", it also heats up and rises. As the warm air continues to rise, the surrounding air rotates to take its place. When the air that is rising cools down, being humid it forms clouds. As this cycle continues, the entire cloud and air system rotates and grows, fueled by the heat from the ocean and the water that evaporates from the surface.

Hurricane characteristics and characteristics

Hurricane Katrina

Depending on the hemisphere in which the hurricane forms, it will turn one way or the other. If it forms in the northern hemisphere, the hurricane will rotate counterclockwise. On the contrary, if they are formed in the southern hemisphere, they will rotate clockwise.

When the air continues to rotate continuously, an eye (called the eye of the hurricane) is formed in the center that is very calm. In the eye pressures are very low and there is neither wind nor currents of any kind.

Hurricanes weaken when they enter land, since they cannot continue to feed and grow from the energy of the oceans. Although hurricanes disappear as they make landfall, they are strong enough to cause damage and death.

Hurricane Categories

Surely you have ever heard that "category 5 hurricane." What Are Hurricane Categories Really? It is a way of measuring the intensity and devastating power of hurricanes. They are divided into five categories and are as follows:

Category 1

hurricane category 1

  • Winds between 118 and 153 kilometers per hour
  • Minimal damage, mainly to trees, vegetation, and mobile homes or trailers that are not properly secured.
  • Total or partial destruction of power lines or badly installed signs. Swells of 1.32 to 1,65 meters above normal.
  • Minor damage to docks and berths.

Category 2

Category 2 hurricane

  • Winds between 154 and 177 kilometers per hour
  • Considerable damage to trees and vegetation. Extensive damage to mobile homes, signs, and exposed power lines.
  • Partial destruction of roofs, doors and windows, but little damage to structures and buildings.
  • Swells of 1.98 to 2,68 meters above normal.
  • Roads and paths near things are flooded.
  • Considerable damage to piers and piers. Marinas are flooded and smaller vessels break moorings in open areas.
  • Evacuation of lowland residents in coastal areas.

Category 3

Category 3 hurricane

  • Winds between 178 and 209 kilometers per hour
  • Extensive damage: large trees downed, as well as signs and signs that are not solidly installed.
  • Damage to the roofs of buildings and also to doors and windows, as well as to the structures of small buildings. Mobile homes and caravans destroyed.
  • Swells of 2,97 to 3,96 meters above normal and flooding in extensive areas of coastal areas, with extensive destruction of buildings that are near the coast.
  • Large structures near the coast are seriously damaged by the onslaught of waves and floating debris.
  • Flat lands 1,65 meters or less above sea level flood more than 13 kilometers inland.
  • Evacuation of all residents along the coastal areas.

Category 4

hurricane category 4

  • Winds between 210 and 250 kilometers per hour
  • Extreme damage: trees and shrubs are blown away by the wind, and advertisements and signs are ripped or destroyed.
  • Extensive damage to roofs, doors and windows. Total collapse of roofs in small homes.
  • Most mobile homes are destroyed or seriously damaged. - Swells of 4,29 to 5,94 meters above normal.
  • Flat lands 3,30 meters or less above sea level are flooded up to 10 kilometers inland.
  • Mass evacuation of all residents in an area about 500 meters from the coast, and also on low ground, up to three kilometers inland.

Category 5

hurricane category 5

  • Winds of more than 250 kilometers per hour
  • Catastrophic damage: trees and shrubs are totally washed away and uprooted by the wind.
  • Major damage to the roofs of buildings. Ads and signs are ripped off and blown away.
  • Total collapse of roofs and walls of small residences. Most mobile homes are destroyed or seriously damaged.
  • Swells 4,29 to 5,94 meters above normal.

With this information you can better know the differences between tornado and hurricane as well as its characteristics. Due to climate change, these phenomena will become more frequent and more intense, so it is advisable to be well informed about them.

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  1.   Hector said

    Excellent explanation; very didactic

  2.   Romina said

    Very simple and understandable explanation for people like me who did not know their differences

  3.   TABATA said

    Thanks for the information, I must admit that I was totally ignorant on the subject.


    Good morning, I do not know if someone has already proposed it, but I think that if a bomb is thrown at the eye of a hurricane or tornado that creates a vacuum with the explosion, this would end the force of the currents and the threat that this represents .


    in the explanations it says that hurricanes are the strongest storms but tornadoes reach almost 500 km / h it would have to say that tornadoes are stronger than hurricanes

  6.   nazi user said

    Good explanation, at the beginning you put the word ´´te .piuedo. quote the
    hurricane´´ etc I was telling you why you put piuedo.
    But very good explanation. keep it up