Many people have already heard about both hurricanes and tornadoes and know that both are weather phenomenons that come with strong winds and can cause great damage. In the following we will compare and contrast hurricanes and tornadoes to highlight their similarities and explain their differences.
What are the similarities between hurricanes and tornadoes?
There must be a reason for the confusion about the use of the terms that describe these distinct weather phenomenons. So let’s ask the following: How are hurricanes and tornadoes alike?
- Both hurricanes and tornadoes are destructive storms.
- Both storms are caused by instability in atmospheric conditions.
- Hurricanes and tornadoes rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.
That’s it. Other than being storms caused by atmospheric conditions that leave trail of destruction behind them, hurricanes and tornadoes don’t have much in common. To better understand the two concepts, let’s focus on their differences instead.
What is the difference between a hurricane and a tornado?
In general, there exist 6 factors that can be used to explain the difference between hurricanes and tornadoes:
- Where they form
- How big they are
- How long they last
- How strong the winds are
- Number of occurrences per year
- Number of days for advanced warning
Let’s have a look at those 6 factors in greater detail.
|Formation||Over water||Over land|
|Size||Several hundred miles wide||No more than 0.25 miles|
|Duration||Up to 3 weeks||No more than 1 hour|
|Frequency/Year||~ 10 in the North Atlantic Ocean||800-1,000 (USA)|
|Warning||Several days||15-30 minutes|
1. Where they form
Hurricanes begin over warm water in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and develop best when far from the polar and subtropical jet stream.
Tornadoes form over land and form within storms that are often very close to the jet stream.
2. How big they are
Hurricanes are extremely large storms that can reach up to several hundred miles in width.
Compared to this, tornadoes are rather tiny. They are usually no more than 0.25 miles wide.
3. How long they last
With up to 3 weeks, hurricanes can last much longer than tornadoes. The latter one usually lasts no more than one hour.
4. How strong the winds are
Hurricanes come with winds of usually less than 180mph. Their strength is measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale (1-5).
Tornadoes, such as the Bridge Creek–Moore Tornado, can reach wind speeds of over 300mph. A tornado’s strength is indicated on the Fujita Scale (F1-F5).
5. Number of occurrences per year
An average of 10-15 hurricanes can be witnessed in the North Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific Ocean per year. Tornadoes occur much more frequently. Between 800-1,000 can occur in one year in the United States alone, not counting the storms in Northern South America, South Mexico, Northern Australia, Southern Asia and Africa. All in all, several thousand tornadoes occur per year worldwide.
6. Number of days for advanced warning
Authorities can issue hurricane warnings several days before the actual event occurs.
Sadly, tornadoes are much more unpredictable in nature and forecasters usually have no more than 15-30 minutes of time to warn a population of the inherent catastrophe.