Difference Between Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning (With Table)

A tornado is a natural calamity that is a part of a thunderstorm, and it touches the ground with a portion of air. It is quite tough to see a live tornado as wind or air that makes up a tornado is usually colorless. To witness a tornado requires the wind to carry dust or land debris along the air to enable it to show some color in order to observe.

Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning

The difference between tornado watches and a tornado warning is that a tornado watch refers to the weather or parameters that are favorable for a severe tornado to take place, whereas warnings are signs provided to people once after the thunderstorm or tornado has begun. The term watch refers to the expectation of a tornado, whereas warning provides indications for an occurring tornado.

Tornado Watch refers to the conditions or looking for the parameters that support the onset of a tornado. A watch is a term specific to the parameters or potentials that stay to show the development of a tornado. These parameters refer to the conditions that are the precursors of the tornado.

Tornado Warning refers to the warning or alarming signs that are provided as awareness for a prevailing tornado or a soon-approaching tornado. A tornado warning is provided to some seriously disastrous thunderstorms that are fast approaching, and it possesses huge destruction costs to the society, and at times it can even cost human lives.

Comparison Table Between Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning

Parameters of ComparisonTornado WatchTornado Warning
DurationThis is usually predicted several hours prior to a tornado would take place.They are provided for a duration of an existing tornado for a small area.
ShelterDuring a watch, People are instructed for a shelter.During warnings, people have to have timely updates provided by NEWS providers.
CoverageIt covers a group of multiple states.It usually covers a small portion of the tornado area that is existing.
IndicationsThis indicates the risks of an onset of the tornado and the prevailing weather that may favor the tornado.This refers to the imminent weather that favors a tornado.
DefinitionWatch usually indicates the preparatory measures that are required for the onset of a tornado.A warning is an indication of requiring to take appropriate action for the tornado that is happening.

What is Tornado Watch?

A tornado watch is provided well in advance before the onset of an expected tornado. These predictions are forecasted for the safety of mankind. This watch indicates an awareness to those people in the area who will be facing a tornado really soon.

These watches indicate that there is a tornado expected, and it can cause danger to both mankind and property. The tornados can cause damages to both the area provided by the tornado watch and the area that surrounds the affected area. Tornadoes can cause a lot of disastrous events. It can have a toll on both human lives and valuable properties. A watch means that there will be an expected tornado to cause unfavorable conditions, and the weather is favoring the conditions for a possible tornado.

Indications are provided to people to notify them that something unfavorable is supposed to happen, and they are warned to be safer and prepared to meet a tornado. This watch does not include an existing or ongoing thunderstorm or tornado but only the conditions or situations that may lead to a tornado. A tornado watch portrays those conditions are favorable but not occurring or happening at the moment. This will alert the people to get prepared to face a tornado.

What is Tornado Warning?

A tornado warning is provided to people who are facing an existing tornado. A warning is provided to those who are facing a tornado for a set duration that was predicted. A warning is provided as the result of a severe thunderstorm and when it further develops into a tornado. This warning is provided to alert people to prepare to face the tornado and consecutively seek shelter during a natural calamity.

These tornados are identified by weather study experts by making use of the available weather conditions predicting instruments. One such instrument used for the prediction of tornados is the doppler radar. Tornados are also observed by humans when a tornado forms as a result of a thunderstorm, and then consecutively, it is mixed with haze and dust and thus becoming visible to everyone who sees a tornado.

Tornados have a greater risk over humans and property than it hits. The loss or destruction is more when compared to that of a thunderstorm. A tornado can be visible only when it comprises dust and haze. Tornados can be tremendous or disastrous at times.

It is necessary to monitor timely weather updates and checks to know about the onset of a tornado. Else, if not prepared by the residents who are about to handle a tornado, it is indeed difficult, and the destruction shall be more to the property and human lives.

Main Differences Between Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning

  1. A tornado watch indicates the onset, whereas the warning indicates the aftermath or happening of a tornado.
  2. A tornado watch is an indicator for a tornado, whereas the warning is the imminent actions required to tackle a tornado.
  3. Tornado Watch usually covers a large area of multiple states, whereas the warning covers a small area of the existing tornado.
  4. A tornado watch indicates the risks of a tornado, whereas the warnings would include terms like seek shelter.
  5. The duration also varies with that of a tornado watch and warning as the watch is predicted several hours prior to a tornado, whereas the warning takes place during an existing tornado.


Both the terms tornado watch and tornado warning have significant differences that have to be known. A tornado watch comprises the previous time period taken to monitor the parameters that support the onset of a tornado and to eventually evaluate the destruction cost and prepare for a tornado accordingly.

Whereas warning is provided to those tornadoes that are existing, and people are alerted to seek for shelters to tackle the tornado. Tornadoes can also be destructive at times, taking a greater toll on people’s lives. Tornadoes are common, and it is mostly accompanied with a thunderstorm and unpredictable weather conditions.


  1. https://pennstate.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/characteristics-of-tornado-events-and-warnings-in-the-southeaster
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30201208/
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