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What Is the Difference between a Cyclone and a Tornado?

what-is-difference-between-cyclone-tornado

Though cyclones and tornadoes are both violent storms, there are several differences between the two. They differ in appearance, size, formation, duration, and frequency.

Appearance

Cyclones have a low-pressure area at the center of the storm called the eye. Storm systems circle around the eye either clockwise or counter clockwise, depending on the collision of winds. Tornadoes are large funnels of rotating air; its rotation also depends on the atmospheric condition. They can also vary in color depending on the debris present in the funnel. [1]

Size

Cyclones are comprised of several storm systems and can have a diameter of several 100 kilometers whereas tornadoes are created out of one storm system and can have a diameter of several 100 meters. [2]

Origins

Cyclones will always form on the ocean when atmospheric conditions are present for one. They may move close to land; however, they will begin to dissipate once they reach it due to the loss of the ocean’s moisture. They can however spawn tornadoes once they reach land.  Tornadoes, on the other hand, generally form on the land and are usually the result of thunderstorms. In addition, cyclones form in tropical climates while tornadoes can form in any continent, except Antarctica. [3]

Frequency and Duration

Tornadoes can last from several seconds to more than an hour, most having a lifespan of less than ten minutes. [4] Cyclones can last three to seven days, some maintaining strength for weeks.  For example, in 1971, Hurricane Ginger lasted 30 days. [5]Cyclones occur, on average, 80-100 times per year, with an average of 40-60 reaching hurricane strength. [6] Conversely, there are more than 1,300 tornadoes recorded on any given year  in the United States alone with a margin of a few hundred. [7]

A Cyclone Is a Typhoon Is a Hurricane

Though the exact same storm, a cyclone is labeled differently depending on its geographical location. In the western North Pacific, cyclones are called typhoons, while the regions of the eastern North Pacific and North Atlantic refer to them as hurricanes.  In other parts of the world, they are named based on severity and may be called cyclones, tropical cyclones, and severe tropical cyclones. [8]

 

Resources

[1]” Fact or Fiction?: South of the Equator Toilets Flush and Tornadoes Spin in the Opposite Direction: Scientific American.” Fact or Fiction?: South of the Equator Toilets Flush and Tornadoes Spin in the Opposite Direction: Scientific American. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-south-of-equator-tornadoes-spin-in-opposite-direction

[2]”TCFAQ L1) How Are Tropical Cyclones Different from Tornadoes?” Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory  N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. <http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/L1.html>.

[3] “Tornado (meteorology).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/599941/tornado>.

[4][7] “The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC).” The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC). N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013. <http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/>.

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