Difference Between Tornado Watch and Warning

Natural disasters are inevitable. It is something that is not in control of anybody. People can only make sure that they follow the right instructions given by the government in case of any disaster which is likely to happen.

A tornado is such a disaster that can be determined by keeping an eye on the favorable conditions for it to happen. The tornado watch is given when it it is predicted to happen because it meets certain potential. A tornado warning is something that is given when it is already happening in some areas and is going to occur now.

Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning

The main difference between Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning is their difference in their durations and actions taken. A tornado watch is giving an alert even if something has not yet been confirmed to happen and it’s most likely to happen, whereas a Tornado warning is issued when a tornado has already been taken by the radar, and it will occur. 

Tornado Watch vs Tornado Warning

A tornado watch is not the confirmation of it to happen, but certain conditions are met, and the potential exists for it to happen. It is just to alert people so they plan if there will be a tornado then where to take shelter and what necessary steps to take after that. It is given several hours before it happens.

A tornado warning is a confirmation that it is already happening and it will occur, so be aware. It is to give an alert to the people to take action immediately before something bad happens to them. It is given in the areas where there is more probability to happen. The duration of giving a warning is few minutes before the tornado.

Comparison Table Between Tornado Watch and Warning

Parameters of ComparisonTornado WatchTornado Warning
DefinitionA tornado watch is issuing alerts observing the conditions favorable for it to happen and is given several hours ago.The Tornado warning is given when the tornado is already sighted in some areas and is about to occur.
Area coverageThe areas to be covered are large sections or portions of states.The areas to be covered are portions of areas where is likely to happen and it takes shelter in a sturdy structure.
Notice in advanceIt is issued several hours before it is going to happen.It is issued for a shorter period of time say for few minutes.
Actions takenIt needs a plan, and several actions such as checking weather forecasts, sky conditions and knowing about the right shelter.There, it needs to take shelter immediately, seeking information about it, and checking the weather forecast updates.
DurationThe duration of a watch can range from a few to several hours.The duration of a warning can range from 20 minutes to an hour.

What is Tornado Watch?

A tornado watch means that the conditions are favorable and the potential exists for the tornados to happen. It depends on the scientific studies and watches on the conditions. It doesn’t mean it has developed somewhere and is spotted on radar. It is just a probability that could happen.

It is issued to the people for a few to several hours. This is done to make people a proper plan and take necessary actions for that. People should check regular weather forecasts, keep an eye on sky conditions, and know where to take shelter.

Since it’s just a prediction after meeting a certain condition, it is issued to large portions or sections of a state, or maybe many states depend on where it is more likely to happen. A few weather conditions, such as warm, moist air, and winds moving at different speeds or directions with height, etc., can be taken into account.

What is Tornado Warning?

Tornado Warning is given when a tornado is going to occur as it has been sighted already in some parts. It has already been picked up by the radar. Usually, it is given few minutes before happening. It gives less time to alert the people and to take the shelter to keep themselves safe and secure.

In this situation, the shelter needs to be taken immediately and seek regular updates and more information about it. It is given in areas where it is most likely to happen and has already happened to its nearby places.

When given a warning, there are many things to happen immediately, and it is a bad idea to wait for a visual confirmation for it to happen. It is very important to follow the information given by the warning issuing body and wait for them to give a green signal.

Main Differences Between Tornado Watch and Warning

  1. A Tornado Watch is not a confirmation of the disaster to happen, whereas a Warning is a surety that the disaster is going to happen.
  2. A watch is issued several hours before the disaster happens, whereas a warning is issued minutes before it happens.
  3. A proper plan is needed to have in case of a tornado watch, whereas immediate action is needed in case of a warning.
  4. A watch covers broad areas such as a portion of states or countries, whereas a warning is given to be given to the areas it is most likely to happen.
  5. The duration of a watch ranges from minutes to several hours, whereas a warning has a duration of 20 minutes to an hour.


Whether it is a Tornado watch or warning, it is a way to alert for keeping themselves safe and secure. The warning is more like a confirmation of the disaster to happen, and it demands immediate actions to be taken. Whereas a watch is like an alert, but it is not a confirmation, and it is more like just a prediction that may or may not be tornado can happen. It is issued based on favorable conditions.

Either of them can be taken as a prevention for the disaster to happen. Therefore it is advised for people to follow the instructions and be safe.


  1. https://search.proquest.com/openview/611e093137fc88893994809cb3c2f80d/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=41157
  2. https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/mwre/91/10/1520-0493_1963_091_0730_tp_2_3_co_2.xml

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