Difference Between Cyclone vs Tornado

Difference Between Cyclone vs Tornado

When you hear of the term “storm,” what comes to your mind? A lot, right? It could be a blizzard, heavy rain, lightning, hail, wind, and so on. Let us talk about the windstorm for the sake of this post. According to experts, this type of wind is strong enough to cause damage to the environment. It can light up the trees, take off the roof of a building, and can turn a loose item into a dangerous projectile.

Windstorms typically come in the form of rapidly rotating columns of air, but they may have different features that make a particular one different from the other. In this post, we will be comparing cyclone vs tornado and discussing how they are different from one another.

Definition of Cyclone

A cyclone is a huge air mass that fiercely circulates about a central location of low atmospheric pressure. The rotation may be in a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere or in counterclockwise direction in the northern hemisphere. It is categorized into tropical, extratropical, and tornadoes.

When there is an organized thunderstorm with no boundaries between air masses of different temperatures, then it is referred to as tropical. This type is also characterized by varying sustained surface wind.

When it is less than 39 miles per hour, then it is called a tropical depression, but when it is 39 miles per hour or more, then it is referred to as a tropical storm. At 74 miles per hour and from over the Atlantic Ocean or the Caribbean Sea, it becomes a hurricane. It becomes a typhoon if it is from over the western Pacific Ocean.

Cyclones have three main parts including the eye, which is the center of the storm; the eyewall, which is the area around the eye where the wind rotates, and the cloud chain, which is the cloud that forms outside the walls.

Definition of Tornado

A tornado is aggressive rotating wind that comes in a funnel-shaped cloud that progresses in a narrow path over the land. Note that this definition is kind of similar to the one above, but there are some peculiarities that make them different from the other. For instance, this windstorm takes place over the land, while in the other case, it originates from over a water body.

Meteorologists say that this type of storm must be in contact with both the ground and cloud base, visible as a vertical funnel of rapidly spinning air. In comparing tornado vs cyclone, one of the most obvious differences is the former is relatively small when compared to the former.

This phenomenon is caused by supercells of large thunderstorms that have air already in circulation and are most commonly seen in Texas. The duration spans from a few seconds to as long as a couple of hours or even more. On average, it is about 660 feet wide and moves about 30 miles per hour.

Main Differences Between Cyclone vs Tornado

There is so much to be said about the difference between cyclone and tornado, but we have summarized them by highlighting them all in the table below.

Basis of ComparisonCycloneTornado
DefinitionA huge air mass that fiercely circulates about a central location of low atmospheric pressureAn aggressive rotating wind that comes in a funnel-shaped cloud that progresses in a narrow path over the land
LocationThe oceanOver the land
Measuring instrumentBeaufort and Saffir-Simpson scalesFujita, Fujita enhanced, and TORRO scales
Area coveredUsually stretches over several hundreds of milesUsually covers smaller areas in comparison
Forms fromRainRain, hail, and sleet

Difference Between Cyclone and Tornado: Conclusion

In conclusion, the difference between tornado and cyclone is based on the location of occurrence, size, and causative factors. Records have it that the latter has mostly affected the Pacific Ocean more than any other water body there is.

The former, on the other hand, is most common in areas where a convergence of cold and warm fronts is common. Also, according to record, the US records about 1,200 cases of the former annually, but the Netherlands experience even more.