Cyclone vs. Typhoon vs. Tornado

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Difference between Cyclones, Typhoon and Tornado

Cyclones are a kind of severe spinning storm occurring over the ocean near the tropics.

A typhoon is a violent cyclone or tropical hurricane that has its occurrence in the Indian Ocean and the west Pacific.

A tornado is a dangerous, violent, rotating air column that comes in contact with the earth surface accompanies by a cumulonimbus cloud or rarely a cumulus cloud.



Inward spiraling winds that rotate in the anticlockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in the clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere characterize the formation of cyclone.

A typhoon is characterized by closed circulation of wind around a central area of low pressure, with its origin in the ocean.

Large and fierce air columns that rotate like funnels and connected with clouds at the top and the land at the bottom are the characteristics of a tornado.


Low pressure areas are created by the swift rising of air heated by the sun. As the warm air rises, moisture is loaded into it and the air condenses into huge thunderclouds and the void that remains is filled by cool air. The constant spin of the Earth on its axis causes the air to bend inwards and spiral forward with massive force as cyclones.

Warm waters, moisture and inward spiraling winds are the causes of typhoons. Typhoons gather energy and heat by coming into contact with warm ocean waters. The sea surface moisture as a result of evaporation invigorates them like huge heat engines.

Thunderstorms usually develop in warm, unstable and moist air. Unstable air means that air temperature rapidly cools as it increases elevation. Severe thunderstorms occur in many different places and these are intensified by dry lines, cold fronts, upslopes etc. These thunderstorms often produce strong winds and some subsequently cause tornadoes.


As aresult of cyclones, low lying areas may flood. Coasts may erode away. Coral reefs can be damaged and could die due to frequent occurrences of cyclones. Coastal winds can destroy buildings and trees alike. Large and huge waves occur in seas. The additional rainfall dilutes the upper sea level as the sea churns. In extreme cases, tornados may form at sea.

The main destructive effects that typhoon brings about are heavy rains, large storm surges, tornadoes and strong winds. Impacts depend on the intensity of the typhoons. Forest canopy could be destroyed; landscapes along coastal regions may be changed. Landslides and mudslides may occur. Standing water generally spreads diseases, communication and transportation are often affected. Alternately, typhoons can bring rain to dry area and temporarily move heat away from tropical areas.

Tornadoes often uproot trees and are thought to be a contributing factor to global warming. Imbalances in ecosystems often occur as populations of plants and/or animals can be drained from the region. Humanity often suffers also. Loss of life and homelessness are the worst case scenarios reported by news agencies. Violent tornadoes leave catastrophic remnants in their wake.

Similarities and Differences

  • Cyclone, tornadoes and typhoons are storm systems that occur due to differences in air pressure over the sea or land
  • A cyclone is actually a circular wind storm, a typhoon usuallyoccurs in the Pacific ocean, but tornadoes occur on land
  • Typhoons and hurricanes are names for weather disturbances that are regionally specific
  • Damage is in direct relation to storm system intensity. Nevertheless, heavy rains and winds cause havoc wherever they present themselves
  • There are some impacts on global warming due to the occurrence of these storm systems
Which storm spins the fastest?
  • Cyclones
  • Typhoon
  • Tornado

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