Difference Between Tornado and Typhoon

Tornadoes and typhoons are both natural disasters that can cause significant damage and destruction. Despite having similar characteristics, these two phenomena are different from each other in several ways.

What is a Tornado?

Tornadoes are small, rotating columns of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. They are usually formed during the spring and summer months in the United States, especially in the central and southern regions. Tornadoes are characterized by their funnel-shaped appearance and can occur suddenly without warning. They have a lifespan of only a few minutes to an hour and can travel at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.

Genesis of a Tornado

Tornadoes usually occur in hot, humid areas, especially during the spring and summer months in the northern hemisphere. Tornadoes form during thunderstorms. Most thunderstorms do not produce tornadoes, but some have the right combination of collisions between hot, humid air and cold air that they form into supercells which can form into tornadoes.

Typically, a thunderstorm will form when humid air and cold air mix, creating rotating columns with powerful winds. These columns are initially horizontal, but the warm air creates an updraft causing one of these columns to become vertical. On either side of the updraft, two more columns form, the largest of which leads to the thunderstorm. If the wind is sufficiently powerful and creates an updraft, a regular thunderstorm can become a supercell. About 30% of supercells produce tornadoes.

What is a Typhoon?

A typhoon is a large, rotating storm system that forms over warm ocean waters. Typhoons are also known as hurricanes or tropical cyclones and are commonly found in the Pacific Ocean, especially in Southeast Asia. Typhoons are characterized by their intense winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges that can cause widespread damage. Unlike tornadoes, typhoons are formed over several days or weeks and can last for several days.

How Do Typhoons Form?

The general term for the storm referred to as a typhoon in northwest Pacific is a tropical cyclone. Tropical cyclones form along the equator as air is blown across warm water. Typhoons only form in waters that are about 80 degrees Fahrenheit down to 165 feet of water depth.

Air circulates over warm water and water vapor condenses into clouds. Eventually, this combination can create a rotating storm system. The weakest type of tropical storm system is called a tropical disturbance.

Once the wind speed in the tropical disturbance surpasses about 22 miles per hour, the tropical disturbance becomes a tropical depression.

Similarities: Tornado and Typhoon

Tornadoes and typhoons are both storms formed by rapidly rotating storm systems created by warm, humid air rising as it collides with cold air. They also tend to occur in warm, moist regions. Tornadoes and typhoons are also known for being enormously destructive.

Differences: Tornado and Typhoon

The key differences are the wind speeds of tornadoes are generally faster than those of typhoons. The strongest tornadoes can have wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, while the strongest typhoons can have wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. However, typhoons are much larger in size than tornadoes and can cover a much wider area. Typhoons can cause significant damage over hundreds of miles, while tornadoes typically cause damage in a small area.

Another significant difference between the two is the location where they occur. Tornadoes occur mainly in the United States, but can also occur in other parts of the world such as Canada, Europe, and Australia. Typhoons, on the other hand, occur mainly in the Pacific Ocean and affect countries such as Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and China.

The following table highlights the major differences between a Tornado and a Typhoon −




Places of formation

Tornadoes form over land.

Typhoons form over water.


The largest tornadoes are hundreds of feet across.

The largest typhoons are hundreds of miles across.


Tornadoes tend to last for a few minutes to a half-hour.

Typhoons can last for anywhere from 12 hours to about a month.


Tornadoes are most common in the spring and summer in most places.

Typhoons generally occur in the mid-summer to early fall, although they can happen at any time during the year.


In conclusion, both tornadoes and typhoons are powerful and destructive weather phenomena that can cause significant damage. However, they differ in their size, formation, wind speeds, and location. While tornadoes are small and form over land, typhoons are much larger and form over warm ocean waters.

Understanding these differences can help people prepare for and mitigate the damage caused by these natural disasters.

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023

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