What is the difference between a tornado and a hurricane?

Both tornadoes and hurricanes are characterized by extremely strong horizontal winds that swirl around their center and by a ring of strong upward motion surrounding downward motion in their center. In both tornadoes and hurricanes, the tangential wind speed far exceeds the speed of radial inflow or of vertical motion.

Hurricanes always and tornadoes usually rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. The Earth's rotation determines this direction for the storms' rotation in each hemisphere. Local winds are sometimes able to cause a tornado to form that spins in the opposite direction from the typical direction for that hemisphere.

The most obvious difference between a tornadoe and hurricane is that a hurricane's horizontal scale is about a thousand times larger than a tornado. In addition, hurricanes and tornadoes form under different circumstances and have different impacts on the atmosphere.

Tornadoes are small-scale circulations, that are rarely more than a few hundred feet across when they touch the ground. Most tornadoes grow out of severe thunderstorms that develop in the high wind-shear environment of the United States Central Plains during spring and early summer.  Many tornadoes form when the large-scale wind flow leads to a violent clash between moist, warm air traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico and cold, dry, continental air coming from the United States Northwest. Tornadoes can also form in many other locations and from other forcing factors. For example, a hurricane making landfall may trigger many tornadoes to form.

Tornado wind speeds may reach 100 to 300 mph and cause havoc on the ground, but tornadoes typically last only a few minutes and rarely travel more than 10 or 20 miles along the ground. Tornadoes have little impact on storms that spawn them or collectively on the global circulation of the atmosphere.

Hurricanes, on the other hand, are large-scale circulations that are 60 to over 1,000 miles across. Hurricanes form near the Equator, generally between 5 and 20 degrees latitude, but never right on the Equator. Hurricanes always form over the warm waters of the tropical oceans and generally where the sea-surface temperature exceeds 26.5°C (76°F).

A hurricane may travel thousands of miles and persist over several days or weeks. During its lifetime, a hurricane will transport a significant amount of heat up from the ocean surface and into the upper troposphere or even lower stratosphere. Even though hurricanes form only sporadically, they do affect the global atmosphere's circulation in measurable ways, although this is still an active area of research.

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GPM overpass of tropical storm Nicole
Hurricane Nicole hit the East Coast of Florida early yesterday morning, November 10th, 2022, at 3:00 am (EST) just south of Vero Beach at North Hutchinson Island. But, unlike Hurricane Ian which came ashore in late September as a powerful Category 4 storm that devasted parts of southwest Florida, Nicole made landfall as minimal Category 1 storm. Though far less intense, Nicole has still brought some heavy rain and gusty winds to the region. Nicole originated from a non-tropical low pressure system over the southwestern Atlantic. As a result, when the National Hurricane Center (NHC) was first
GPM overpass of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 26, 2022
Hurricane Ian became one of the strongest hurricanes on record to strike Florida when it made landfall Wednesday, Sept. 28th, 2022, around 3:10 pm (EDT) as a Category 4 storm near Cayo Costa, FL, about 20 miles west-southwest of Punta Gorda on Florida’s southwest coast. This same area was hit hard by Hurricane Charley in 2004, which also made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm. Both storms passed over and were intensified by the deep, warm waters of the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Ian originated from a tropical easterly wave that propagated westward off the coast of Africa across the
IMERG analysis of Hurricane Ian
On Sept. 30, 2022, Hurricane Ian was approaching South Carolina, which was one day after Ian finished its west-to-east crossing of Florida. NASA has been estimating Hurricane Ian's precipitation over land and ocean, which complements the array of detailed observations collected by NOAA and other agencies of Ian's impact over land.
IMERG precipitation totals from Hurricane Ian
Hurricane Ian formed in the Caribbean Sea on Sept. 26, 2022. Ian intensified to Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale by the time it made landfall in western Cuba early the next day. NASA's near real-time IMERG algorithm was used to estimate the precipitation from Ian during its formation and intensification. IMERG shows that Ian's largest rainfall accumulation so far, over 12 inches, occurred while it was only a tropical storm and not yet a hurricane. The National Hurricane Center provided an estimate of the distance that tropical storm-force winds extended from Ian's low-pressure
GPM overpass of Hurricane Fiona on Sept. 23, 2022.
After leaving the Caribbean, Hurricane Fiona became both the strongest and the first major hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season as it made its way northward through the western Atlantic. Fiona began as an African easterly wave that moved across the tropical Atlantic in the direction of the Caribbean. While still about 800 miles east of the Leeward Isles, this wave organized into a tropical depression on Sept.14th. Later that same day, the depression strengthened and became Tropical Storm Fiona. Fiona remained a moderate tropical storm as it passed through the Leeward Isles on the