What Are the Differences and Similarities Between Hurricanes and Tornadoes?

Major differences between hurricanes and tornadoes are their formation method, location, appearance, wind speed and method of inflicting damage. Major similarities are that they form during storm conditions and are very powerful and destructive, watches and warnings are issued through weather services and they both have a set season every year.

Hurricanes form over warm water in the ocean and are fueled by the tropics' warm, moist air. Tornadoes form above land through cool polar air masses meeting warm air masses. Hurricanes appear as very large, rain-pouring wind storms that revolve around a central “eye.” Tornadoes appear as rapidly rotating columns of wind that have made contact with the ground.

A high wind speed for a hurricane is 160 miles per hour, while a high wind speed for a tornado is 300 miles per hour. Hurricanes cause damage with strong winds and torrential rains, while tornadoes inflict damage with extremely strong winds. Hurricanes move slowly and cause damage over an enormous area. Tornadoes move more quickly, often erratically, and cause concentrated damage in smaller areas than hurricanes.

Both hurricanes and tornadoes form during storm conditions that involve warm air. Both hurricanes and tornadoes have storm watches and warnings issued when the conditions are likely to produce or have produced a storm, but because of the unpredictable nature of tornadoes, there is much less warning time for people to find shelter.