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Difference Between Funnel Cloud and Tornado

tornadoFunnel Cloud vs Tornado

Over the past few years, it seems as if there has been an onslaught of natural calamities to strike countries, seemingly out of nowhere ‘“ like typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis. Part of the way that we should be prepared is to learn about the basics of the natural disasters which may affect us. Here, we will take a look at the main differences and similarities between a funnel cloud and a tornado.

First, what exactly are funnel clouds? As the name implies, these are clouds which are shaped like a funnel, and they actually consist of droplets of condensed water. The water is combined with a column of wind which extends from the base of the cloud ‘“ which does not actually reach the ground or sea level.

Funnel clouds are typically associated with supercell thunderstorms, which have a large-scale rotation. When the funnel cloud touches the ground ‘“ that is the time when it becomes a tornado. Although it is true that there are funnel clouds which later turn out to be tornadoes, there are a lot of funnel clouds which remain in that state, because they do not come in contact with the ground. In most cases, the sight of a funnel cloud should be cause for seeking shelter, since it may turn into a full-fledged tornado.

Tornadoes, on the other hand, are a more familiar, yet extremely dangerous weather phenomenon. It’s a violent, rotating column of air which comes in contact with the ground and cumulus clouds. Tornadoes can be of several types and strengths, which include the landspout, waterspout and multiple vortex tornadoes. A funnel cloud is merely spotted visually when it passes overhead, but tornadoes are detected through the Pulse-Doppler radar.

At the end of the day, seeing a funnel cloud means that you might just have missed disaster, while encountering a full-blast tornado is similar to experiencing Mother Nature’s wrath. No matter which of these two you encounter, it is best to be alert at all times, and seek shelter if necessary ‘“ so that you can stay out of harm’s way.


1. A funnel cloud is a specific type cloud made up of droplets of condensed water and air, while a tornado is a specific type of funnel cloud.

2. A funnel cloud is rotating air which does not make it to the ground, while a tornado is a column of air which violently rotates and extends from the cloud to the ground.

3. A funnel cloud can quickly extend to the ground and become a tornado, while a tornado is already a violent phenomenon which may cause harm to people and property.

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